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ANCHORAGE - Two young brothers who disappeared from their Anchorage neighborhood two weeks ago have been found dead in a pond half a mile from their home.
Authorities recovered the bodies of 8-year-old Malcolm Johnson and his 5-year-old brother Isaiah from the partially frozen pond Tuesday evening. The surrounding area was searched soon after the boys vanished March 10.
Authorities received a phone tip from a woman who found a child's shoe floating at the edge of the pond, Police Chief Walt Monegan said. A fire department dive team found the bodies about six feet under the ice.
"Our hearts and prayers are with the family tonight," Monegan said at a news conference Tuesday night.
Monegan said the pond was one of the first places checked, but searchers didn't go under the ice because there were no obvious holes where the boys could have fallen in. The pond was unfrozen around the edges, but the water was only 6 to 8 inches deep on the perimeter, he said.
Monegan said the deaths can't be ruled an accident until autopsies are completed. Police had believed the brothers were abducted.
Police will continue to investigate the deaths as a crime until determined otherwise, Monegan said.
Autopsies were expected to be done today.
Rex Butler, an Anchorage attorney hired by the Johnson family, said the boys' mother, Brandi Johnson, was devastated at the news her boys had been found dead. The family has complained that police have accused relatives of possible involvement in the brothers' disappearance.
"She didn't think they were dead, not at all," Butler told the Anchorage Daily News.
Neighbors gathered at the pond late Tuesday night, placing dozens of candles on the ice.
Dante Cueresma, who lives across the street, said he watched from his upstairs window as police pulled the first child from the water about 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Cueresma brought three candles out onto the ice.
"I just wanted to pay tribute to these kids," he said.