Father of missing Tucson girl separated from family

TUCSON, AZ - Arizona's child welfare agency is prohibiting the father of a missing Tucson girl from having any contact with his other two children, but authorities say that doesn't mean he's a suspect in her disappearance.

Police Sgt. Maria Hawke confirmed Monday the state agency has ordered Sergio Celis to stay away from his two sons, citing a need to ensure the boys' welfare. She declined to elaborate.

Celis' daughter, 6-year-old Isabel Mercedes Celis, has been missing for nearly a month.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said at a news conference that Isabel's older brothers are "with their mother" and have "not been taken away" by Child Protective Services. He noted Celis is cooperating with the agency's order.

"He's voluntarily agreed with CPS to stay away from the children," Villasenor said. "We can't talk about other details."

Authorities added it's common for the agency to be involved in missing-child cases. They wouldn't say where Celis is living.

A message left for Celis on his cellphone by The Associated Press was not immediately returned, nor was a message left for his wife, Rebecca. Police said neither has an attorney.

Authorities have been searching for Isabel since she was reported missing the morning of April 21. They haven't identified any suspects in the case.

The Celises have said they last saw the girl in her bedroom the night of April 20. A window was later found open with the screen pushed aside in the family's home, police said.

Villasenor said Monday that investigators have determined Rebecca Celis had already gone to work on April 21 when Sergio got up and discovered Isabel missing. The couple's sons also were at home, he said.

Villasenor noted police have processed more than 1,000 tips in their search and contacted more than 500 sex offenders living within the city limits.

"We have not eliminated any possibilities in this case," he said. "We're still doing a lot of work. It's a very painstaking process. I'm not giving up hope. Sometimes these cases are decided on one big break. We are waiting for that break."