Missing 6-year-old found safe after pre-dawn search

VAN BUREN TWP. — A 6-year-old boy was found cold, but safe early Saturday morning after his parents woke up to find a window open and his bed empty.

Just before 4 a.m. Dec. 16, the child’s parents called 911 to report him missing from a home in the 8000 block of Heathers Pass, on the far southeast side of the county.

The child had opened a window and climbed out, according to an incident report from Brown County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Jackson. The parents said they had no idea what time the boy had left the home, which was in a heavily wooded area with long driveways and ponds.

The child had gone to bed wearing a red T-shirt, tan pants and no socks. The temperature was around 32 degrees that morning, Jackson reported.

Police began driving up and down the gravel drives with their red and blue lights flashing and spotlights on, thinking the boy might be attracted to the lights, the police report said.

The parents and some neighbors had already been out looking in the woods before police arrived, and police asked them to come out of the woods so they wouldn’t cover the child’s tracks before a K9 officer could get there, the police report said.

Eight Southern Brown County volunteer firefighters came to help search, said Assistant Chief Evan Johnson. Terry Miller was stationed at the end of Heathers Pass directing searchers to the house to get the briefing and to stay out of the woods until a search began.

When firefighter Brad Lovins drove up, he rolled his windows down to speak with Miller. “He looks at Terry and he goes, ‘Did you hear that? It sounds like a little kid,'” Johnson said.

About an hour into the search, Lovins, Terry Miller and firefighter Ben Miller found the child sitting on a neighbor’s porch, about 200 yards from the home, Johnson said.

The searchers had been told that the child liked cellphones. Lovins said he approached the child and said he had his cellphone for him.

The child ran to Lovins, and Lovins asked if he could pick him up because he was cold, he said. Then he took the child to a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy, who drove him up to where the ambulance was stationed, Lovins said.

“It didn’t take really long,” Johnson said. “Thank God. It obviously could have been much worse. He didn’t have shoes or a jacket on.”

Lovins said finding the child safe was “heartwarming.”

“A lot of times, those things don’t turn out that way, but thank God this did,” he said.

The parents were able to sit in the ambulance with the child as he was warmed up and had a full checkup. After 30 minutes, EMS told them he was fine and he was released to his parents, the police report said.

“We were all talking about it afterwards, and it’s like, how lucky, how lucky were we tonight that he was just down there sitting on a neighbor’s porch?” Johnson said.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and firefighters from Southwest Bartholomew County Volunteer Fire Department also assisted at the scene.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.