Saturday afternoon. Davis Ford Road. Prince William County, Virginia. About 30 miles southwest of Washington.

Her first weekend out in months, a rare day of feeling good after more than a year in bed with Epstein-Barr virus, a rare infection that saps the body of energy.

Sitting in the passenger seat of the Triumph sports car, enjoying the unusually warm autumn day after a big lunch.

Then they crossed the Occoquan River. A chill bit to the bone. Nausea rose. She shivered.

“Stop the car.”

What? Her husband was startled.

“Stop the damn car! Now!”

He stopped, just west of the bridge. She trembled. She fought the rising bile of vomit.

“The little gir’s dead,” she finally said. “She’s in the water and she’s dead.”

Then she vomited.

Two-year-old Karynne Sheldon had been missing for five days at that time. She had wondered away from a house where where he mother worked after being out of sight for just a few minutes. Police, bolstered by volunteer search crews, has scoured the woods near Davis Ford Road night and day, looking for a sign, any sign, of the little girl.

A bloodhound tracked Karynne’s scent to a side road off David Ford road and lost it. Kidnapping, police thought. Makes sense in these sick times.

Searchers walked the banks of the river, but didn’t go into the water. The river was three-quarters of a mile away from where Karynne was last seen. She couldn’t have gotten that far in the little time that she was out of her mother’s site. It didn’t seem possible.

After tossing the last remnants of lunch, she got back into the car.

“Take me home,” she told her husband. “I’ve had enough.”

For the next 45 minutes, she shivered, cried and dreaded what she felt. For years she had known about this sense of things, a sense of dread that came over her and all too often was proven right.

Once, she called friends and told them not to drive on the Beltway around Washington on that day. If they do, she told them, something bad would happen.

They laughed. That afternoon, their daughter was injured in a wreck on the Beltway. Instead of thanking her, they said: “don’t tell us these things in the future. We’d rather not know.”

But she knew. She knew something would happen to them just as surely as she now knew Karynne Sheldon was dead. She knew Karynne was in the water. The sensation was one of cold, can’t breathe, can’t move.

That evening, she wrote and dated what she felt, then debated whether or not to call the cops. She had tried telling police about such feelings in the past, but they ignored her, dismissing it as the calls of some kook. Why risk further ridicule.

Finally she picked up the phone. “Prince William Police? I think you better search the river. I think the little girl is in the water.” They said “thanks” and hung up. She could imagine the cops tossing the notes from her call into the trash can.

Five days later, on a Thursday morning, a boater in the Occuquan saw something floating in the water. As he drew closer, he felt sick when he realized it was the body of a child.

Five hours later, the Prince William County medical examiner confirmed it was the body of Karynne Sheldon. She had drowned.

The body was found 50 yards below the bridge at Davis Ford Road.

–Doug Thompson
Washington, DC

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