Friday, November 16, 2018 || By DeJada Daily || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Robert Larson holds up newspaper clippings inside of his home last month. | DeJada Daily
Five years after Bryeon Hunter’s mother beat him to death, a local man keeps watch over most court hearings and appearances, making sure no one forgets the 20-month-old Maywood boy.
Robert Larson never knew Hunter or his mother, Lakeshia Baker, but when the Amber Alert went out in 2013 about the missing baby, the Westchester man put everything aside for 30 days to find him. He used a donated canoe, then a kayak to search the nearby Des Plaines River day and night.
On May 16, 2013 – 30 days after Baker falsely reported that three Hispanic men in an SUV
had abducted the child — he found Hunter’s deteriorating body, unclothed and face up in the mucky, cold water. The boy had been stuffed into a backpack and thrown in the river.
Remembering that day still makes Larson tremble with emotion.
“I can’t even look at a backpack anymore without thinking of Bryeon,” he said in an interview last month.
Baker and her boyfriend, Michael Scott, were both charged with murder. Baker was sentenced to prison for 35 years in May while Scott was sentenced to five years in prison on Nov. 15.
Robert Larson (far left), his search dog, Dexter, and others who volunteered during the search for Hunter received a standing ovation during a Maywood board meeting in 2013. | Photo: Tina Valentino.
During the trials, one judge referred to Scott as the lowest of humanity, and Larson as the highest of humanity. Throughout the whole ordeal, Larson kept showing up at every court hearing.
“Little Bryeon needed someone to fight for him and that is what I am doing,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion.
Larson himself had a rough childhood, suffering frequent beatings from his stepfather. But he is still not sure what led him to search full-time for a stranger’s child.
“You have to ask God that question,” he said.
The search profoundly changed Larson’s life.
Beforehand, he would spend his days training his search dogs, playing pool, drinking and
occasionally getting into trouble. But the search for Hunter gave Larson more meaning to his life.
“I gave up everything I got to find one kid,” he said.
Larson lost his home, things he can never replace and two teeth – knocked out when the
donated search canoe flipped.
Larson with his dogs last month. | DeJada Daily
Afterwards, the village of Maywood gave him an award, but Larson still struggled. He was homeless for three years, living in his truck with two dogs. He even attempted to live in a storage place, but it was a short stay due to flooding.
Now, he lives with his three dogs in a trailer that also serves as his office. He keeps watch
over a truck lot and does other odd jobs, such as collecting rent on the South Side of Chicago for a close friend. He still keeps the kayak he used to find Hunter and will never give it up.
And he can never forget Hunter’s July 9 birthday.
“I can’t remember my own brother’s birthday, but I can remember Hunter’s,” he said.
On what would have been Hunter’s second birthday, Larson and his 12-year-old son took a trip to the side of a bridge over the Des Plaines River and placed a banner that read “Happy Birthday Bryeon. We Will Miss You,” along with balloons.
After all the searching and the troubles that followed, Larson said, he has no regrets.
“I would do it all over again,” he said. VFP
DeJada Daily is a student at Dominican University in River Forest and writes for the college’s official student newspaper, the Dominican Star.