Missing child Shaniya Hawkins found safe in neighbor's home in Fayetteville

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There was a happy ending in the search for a missing 3-year-old girl in Fayetteville. Shaniya Hawkins had last been seen in bed Thursday at 10 p.m.

The search is over for a missing toddler in Fayetteville.

Shaniya Hawkins, 3, was last seen by her parents at 10 p.m. Thursday in the family's Lakehaven Drive home. Around 4:30 p.m. Friday, a neighbor who lives a few doors from the Hawkins pulled into his driveway. Police asked him to open the front door, and authorities immediately spotted the toddler, who came out wearing a pull-up.

"It appears she gained entry through a house through an unlocked back door," said Fayetteville Police Officer and Cross Creek Commander Anthony Kelly.

Michael Hawkins told police he and his wife, Jayna, put the child to bed in her upstairs bedroom around 10 p.m. Thursday.

Authorities said Hawkins told them he woke up at 9 a.m. Friday, and called police about the missing child at noon. It is unclear when Hawkins realized his daughter went missing.

The 911 call launched a ground search of the neighborhood, neighbors' pools and a nearby creek and pond. K9 crews were also brought in.

The child's maternal grandparents, Jonathan and Michelle Escow, showed up to the search scene early Friday afternoon. They said their granddaughter was just shy of her fourth birthday, but developmentally challenged.

"She's just started opening doors," cried Michelle Escrow. "I just hope she's found soon because it's such a hot day today."

By 4:30 p.m., the ABC11 crew moved out of a neighbors' driveway to make room for him to pull in. Police asked him to unlock the door, and within seconds, officials were walking Shaniya Hawkins out of the home. The child appeared responsive and in good spirits.

Police said the homeowner had just returned from work and was unaware the child was in the home. Authorities said it appears Shaniya gained entry through an open rear door and was inside the home for some time.

It remains unclear how long the child was in the residence, or exactly how she managed to get into the neighbors' back door.

"(We) don't know, got to put this puzzle together," said Kelly. "(We) just know some time through the night she got out of the house and ended up into this house. Somewhere in between....we're going to have to find out."

Meanwhile, the little girl's apparent big adventure is something of a mystery to Shaniya's neighbor Ken Kolasa.

"I got a lot of questions," Kolasa said. "It doesn't make any sense."

Kolasa lives between where little Shaniya disappeared and where she was found. He finds it hard to believe a 3-year-old could make it through the tall weeds and briers behind their homes.

"It's pretty rough when you get in the thicker spots," he said. "So with sticker bushes, I mean it's thick back there. Hard to get through. I mean I would not do it."

Police say, for now, no one is facing any charges.

Shaniya was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center for an evaluation.

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