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Autistic boy found alive 6 days after vanishing

An autistic boy was found Friday near a Virginia park where he was separated from his family six days ago, police said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An 8-year-old autistic boy was found alive Friday, nearly six days after he wandered away from his family while walking in a wooded park.

Robert Wood Jr. was found in a fetal position in a creek bed at a quarry about 20 miles north of Richmond around 2 p.m., Hanover County Sheriff David Hines said. Wood was in good condition, but was taken to a Richmond hospital where he was reunited with his family.

The boy was found about one mile from North Anna Battlefield Park, where he disappeared while on a walk with family on Sunday.

Wood had been the focus of an intense search attracting more than 1,000 volunteers some days and assisted by professional search-and-rescue teams.

Woods parents thanked the community and searchers.

"Robert is a very strong and determined little boy. We never gave up hope that he would return home safe," Robert Wood Sr. said in a statement.

Hines said search teams also never gave up.

"There were sometimes that you just had to reach down and find that faith that you were going to find him. Whether it's appropriate or not for everyone, there is a God. He listens to prayers, and prayers were answered," he said.

Hines said the boy appeared to be alert and in good condition.

"I'm not a medical person, but I will say that he was serious but in good shape," he said.

Crews had searched the area before, but Hines said he believed Wood must have moved around. The boy's parents said he could not speak.

"It's been a challenge dealing with a child with special needs who was lost," he said. "... I don't think we walked past him. We're just thankful he was located."

Gov. Bob McDonnell called the boy's discovery "the best possible result to a very difficult situation."

"As a father of five, I can only imagine the fear, uncertainty and sadness that Robert's family endured during this difficult time," the governor said in a prepared statement.

Virginia State Police Sgt. Thomas Molnar said search crews maintained a positive outlook even as the days added up. He said that helped keep volunteers returning day after day to keep searching.

"I've been in law enforcement for 13 years and I've not seen a community response as large as this," Molnar said.

So many volunteered, some had to be turned away, Hines said.

"This week we were all together. We all had the same mission," said Capt. Michael Trice of the Sheriff's Department. "It was an awesome experience to be a part of because he was found."