OAKLAND -- As anxious family and friends of toddler Daphne Webb stood by at Oakland's Merritt College on Saturday morning, a team of about 45 investigators with search dogs spent about five hours scouring new areas in an effort to find the missing 22-month-old.

They turned up nothing.

"We are done with this area for now," said Oakland police Sgt. Mike Gantt, the department's lead investigator on the case. "We do have one more location we are going to search in the future."

A helicopter flew over that "area of interest" west of the Merritt College late Saturday taking photos, said Oakland police officer and spokeswoman Johnna Watson.

A sign for Daphne Viola Webb is up at the Oakland Coliseum.
A sign for Daphne Viola Webb is up at the Oakland Coliseum. (ABC 7)

Daphne has been missing since July 10, when her father said someone snatched her from his car when he went into a convenience store and left her with his mother, who has dementia.

Daphne's maternal grandfather, Kevin Davis, 53, of Oakland, joined the dozen family members and friends who gathered at Merritt College awaiting any developments.

"I'm glad they didn't find Daphne out there in the field. It keeps our hopes up, and we continue to still be optimistic as we have been from day one," Davis said after the search concluded.

Searchers began at about 9:30 a.m., fanning out into East Bay Regional Park trails and open space. They searched a 3-mile radius of Merritt College and spread out to parkland and Joaquin Miller Park after new Oakland Police Department investigative information led them there.


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Assisting the department in the case, the FBI used aerial photos in the past week to identify areas that had not yet been searched. In addition, searchers in vehicles covered areas from Skyline Boulevard to Piedmont, Watson said.

Gantt declined to specify why the focus was on those areas.

Shortly after noon, it appeared investigators may have found a lead when Watson told the assembled media they found something that "may potentially have evidentiary value." It turned out crews found two hidden shovels and a pickax left behind by some young mountain bikers who had been working on trails and thought they might get into trouble when searchers showed up.

Among the searchers were Peg Thompson, a volunteer and K-9 handler with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, and Kato, an 85-pound, 2-year-old black German shepherd.

"He's trained to find everything from teeth to newly dead bodies," Thompson said. "He won't find any live people, so today we are looking for things he's trained to search for."

The missing 22-month-old's father, John Webb, 49, was not among the family members at the site Saturday. Investigators have said they questioned Webb's story that someone took his daughter from his black Ford SUV on July 10 near 79th Avenue and International Boulevard.

Webb was arrested the next day on suspicion of felony child endangerment because the child was not in proper care in the SUV, but prosecutors declined to file charges, and he was released from jail the following day.

Webb had custody of Daphne because the child's mother, Kiana Davis-Webb, 31, is living in a drug rehabilitation home in Oakland. Police have not named her as a person of interest or suspect.

Davis-Webb's father on Saturday said his daughter, who is five months pregnant with a baby girl with John Webb, has been in contact with Webb during the past week.

"On one hand, she's trying to be a good wife," he said. "But at the same time, she's trying to be a wife to a person of interest in this case."

On Friday, the FBI raised the reward for information leading directly to the whereabouts of the missing girl to $20,000.

Previous searches have focused on parks and trails behind Webb's Greenridge Drive home, the waterfront along Martin Luther King Jr. shoreline, Joaquin Miller Park and East Oakland neighborhoods where Daphne was reported missing.

Anyone with information about the case can call the Oakland Police Department missing persons unit at 510-238-3641.

Contact Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.