A 2-year-old child who disappeared from his rural home early Tuesday walked several miles through woods before he crawled into a car and locked the door, Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said.
“He probably walked three or four miles through the woods, and his dog stayed right by his side until he got in the car,” Peterson said.
Even then, the dog stayed around the car, he said.
William Odom had last been seen at his home in the 19400 block of Pete Hickman Road.
Never miss a local story.
The boy, only in a diaper, was on a piece of property where a car was unlocked and its windows were cracked.
William, who has autism, started honking the car’s horn around the time a school bus stopped nearby, Peterson said. A student got off the bus and heard the honking and went to check it out, and found the child, Peterson said. The student got his uncle, who notified officials.
“With the grid we were searching, it would have been another hour and a half before we searched the area where he was found,” Peterson said.
“I gave him a Slim Jim and a Gatorade and he sucked them both down.”
Investigators believe the boy opened the door of his house and wandered out with his dog.
“According to the mother, she woke up and found the door wide open and him gone,” Peterson said.
The child was found about 1/4 mile from where rescuers were looking. A creek is nearby, which concerned rescuers.
William disappeared sometime after his father left for work about 6:30 a.m. William’s mother and his aunt noticed him missing and searched a few hours before they notified the sheriff’s office about 10:30 a.m., Peterson said.
The boy was found about 3:15 p.m.
Deputies reported the boy appeared to have heat exhaustion and scratches from walking through the woods.
An American Medical Response ambulance crew checked the boy’s vital signs and took him to a hospital for a checkup, Peterson said.
About 40 people, including deputies, firefighters and others, initially joined the search and a helicopter circled the area looking for signs of the child.
Gulf Coast Search and Rescue joined the search.
It wasn’t immediately clear if any charges will be filed.