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Human remains believed to be Ark. toddler missing a year

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Police believe human remains found in a rural Arkansas field are those of a boy who disappeared from his father's home more than a year ago, authorities said Wednesday, just hours after announcing the toddler's father had been arrested on a capital murder charge.

The remains have been sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for final identification, but police believe they found the body of Malik Drummond, who was 2-years-old when he went missing in November 2014, said Searcy police Sgt. Steve Hernandez. The boy's father, Jeffery Clifton, was arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of capital murder and abuse of a corpse.

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Jeffrey Clifton KTVH

Hernandez said he couldn't release details about how investigators knew to search the rural area in Jackson County, northeast of where the boy lived in Searcy, a city about 50 miles northeast of Little Rock. Hernandez would only say that more arrests were possible in the "very active" investigation, and that Clifton's arrest marked "a bittersweet ending" for the boy's family.

"We've been working for Malik over the last year. It's a good feeling to get some closure, but we're still without a 2 ½-year-old child," Hernandez said.

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

Clifton was denied bond during a hearing Wednesday. Case documents, including probable cause affidavits that may contain details about the investigation, have been sealed, according to White County Circuit Court officials. It wasn't clear if Clifton had an attorney.

Clifton's father, John Clifton, said the family had no immediate comment when contacted by The Associated Press, and a call to a phone number believed to belong to Malik's mother rang unanswered.

Hernandez said the original 911 call came from a neighbor who spoke to Clifton and his then-girlfriend as they were searching for the child on Nov. 23, 2014.

Clifton's girlfriend told police the toddler wandered away from their home that evening, 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.

Last month, the FBI offered $20,000 for information about the case. The agency said Wednesday that it received several phone calls about the case after billboards went up announcing the reward.

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 his then-girlfriend had been cooperative.

Clifton told The Daily Citizen newspaper earlier this year that his oldest son died in 2005 after he was hit by a car getting off a school bus, and that he'd been hoping for the best in the search for Malik. 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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