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Father of Ark. toddler missing a year charged with murder

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The father of an Arkansas boy who went missing more than a year ago has been arrested on suspicion of capital murder and abuse of a corpse, authorities said Wednesday.

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Jeffery Clifton KTVH

Searcy police haven't said what led to the arrest of 43-year-old Jeffery Clifton, or whether investigators had found the body of his son, Malik Drummond. The boy was 2 when he disappeared from his father's home in November 2014.

Sgt. Steve Hernandez said Clifton was booked into the local jail Wednesday morning, but said he couldn't release details about the investigation. A message left with White County prosecutors wasn't immediately returned.

The child's mother, Tanya Drummond, told CBS affiliate KTVH that Clifton turned himself in to authorities because "his conscience was eating him alive."

Clifton was expected to make his first court appearance later in the day. It wasn't clear whether he had an attorney.

Clifton's then-girlfriend told police the toddler wandered away from their home the evening of Nov. 23, 2014, while Clifton was sleeping. She said the child was gone when she exited the bathroom, and when she asked where Malik was, another child pointed at the screen door.

Dozens of volunteers and law enforcement officers spent weeks scouring the family's neighborhood in Searcy, a city about 50 miles northeast of Little Rock. Last month, the FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information about the case.

Clifton said last month that he was still searching for his son, "looking at cars that pass, in parks." Authorities said at the time that Clifton and the woman had been cooperative.

Clifton told The Daily Citizen newspaper earlier this year that his oldest son died in 2005, and that he'd been hoping for the best. He said he was "still kind of numb" about Malik's disappearance.

"It's tough around here, especially on the holidays. I hope he's found safe and that wherever he is or whoever has him makes sure (Malik) is taken care of first and foremost. Then I want him back, with his sister, with his family. Either this is going to end good or bad or never end," he told the newspaper.

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