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As many The body of a 4-year-old autistic boy who went missing while visiting his grandparents in South Carolina was found in a pond Friday, the local coroner's office said. Jayden Morrison, who is non-communicative, was last seen Wednesday at his grandmother's house in Little River near Myrtle Beach. Hundreds of volunteers, police and rescue crews began a third day of searching for the young boy in remote areas and bodies of water before his body was found, according to the Horry County Police Department. Jayden's mother, who is from Westchester, New York, left him in the care of his grandmother on Christmas Eve during the family's visit. The grandmother told police that she turned around when the boy disappeared.
100 emergency workers and volunteers were searching on Christmas Day
The family of a four-year-old boy with autism is desperately searching for their missing son in South Carolina. Jayden Morrison was last seen on 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve at his grandmother's house in Little River, South Carolina. The Morrison family is from New York, but was visiting South Carolina for the holidays. "He’s never done anything like this before. He’s 4 years old. He’s never been out of my eyesight,” said his mother Tabatha Morrison, who was out doing Christmas shopping and left Jayden in her mother's care. She added that it was even harder to find Jayden because he is nonverbal and will not respond to his name being called. “The houses here all look the same. At home he would be able to point out his house.”
The search continued Christmas Day for 4-year-old Jayden Morrison, a boy reported missing the day before in Little River while he was visiting his grandmother for the holiday.
His parents and grandmother tearfully pleaded Thursday for his safe return, while hundreds of emergency workers and volunteers combed the neighborhood and woods for clues about the boy, who is autistic and nonverbal.
“We’ve always been in a gated situation,” Jayden’s father, Andre Morrison said Thursday afternoon after he arrived from New York. “We knew he was a wanderer when he was younger, but he was always in an enclosement. We never put him in a position to go out and freely wander.”
Jayden was reported missing about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday after his grandmother, Carolyn Sumpter, noticed he was not with his two siblings after his mother, Tabatha Morrison had left for a shopping trip to Wal-Mart.
“I came here with three kids and I’m going to leave with my three kids,” Tabatha Morrison said her cheeks stained with tears and more tears ready to spill from her eyes.
“Hopefully no one abducted him. . . . If so, just bring him back. He needs his treatments,” Andre Morrison said. “It was raining viciously last [Wednesday] night, so I don’t know maybe somebody snatched him up and scared to be charged with kidnapping, just bring him back. I don’t think my son went in that water. He’s a trooper.”
Carolyn Sumpter, Jayden’s grandmother, said it was only a few minutes and the boy was gone from the house.
“He was lying on the couch watching cartoons. His mother had gone to the store. I didn’t know she had gone out the front door and the door wasn’t close properly,” Sumpter said. “After a telephone call, I saw two kids and I said ‘where’s the third one?’ I looked around because I couldn’t find Jayden.”
“I looked all around the house three times. I noticed the front door was ajar and then when I pushed the screen door, I knew he had the strength to push the door open,” Sumpter said and noted she then called 911, some neighbors and they began searching for the boy.
“At 6 o’clock [Thursday] morning Tabatha and I were walking up and down the streets calling his name because he’s nonverbal. He makes this certain sound and we thought we could hear his sound. We walked up and down these streets all night long calling his name,” Sumpter said.
A helicopter with the State Law Enforcement Division along with workers from dozens of police and fire agencies paired with community members to help search the area for the boy.
“We’ve got upwards of 50 to 60 volunteers working in teams with personnel combing through the woods and search areas,” Horry County police Lt. Raul Denis said.
The search crews were going door-to-door in the neighborhood, checking bushes and divers were searching through at least three ponds in the immediate area of Sumpter’s home on Sultana Drive near Secondary Highway 111 and Horseshoe Road off of U.S. 17. Divers said they found no indication that the child is in any those ponds, according to police.
Homeowners in the area were being asked to check their vehicles, especially large white Sport Utility Vehicles, outbuildings and sheds for the boy.
“We’ve got people attacking this from every angle to try and find him,” Denis said.
A drone owned by Mark Middleton, a retired North Myrtle Beach firefighter, also was used to survey the area for clues about the boy.
“When it comes to kids there’s no limit you won’t go to to help,” said Karen Middleton, Mark’s wife, as he prepared to launch the drone to survey one of the several ponds in the area.
“We are praying for a Christmas miracle,” Karen Middleton said.
“I bought this as a toy after retirement, but then I started reading more and more about rescue,” Mark Middleton said. “We came here Christmas morning and haven’t even opened our presents yet.”
“The best present would be to find the boy and bring him home,” Karen Middleton said.
People walked the neighborhood’s streets searching for the boy and spent their Christmas Day trying to help another family.
“Everybody is saying if I was a kid where would I go,” said Kris Hillenburg, who was walking the neighborhood. “I can’t imagine what [Jayden’s] family is going through. Everybody knows [Sumpter] here and she’s one of the best people you can meet.”
Eleen Schweda, a neighbor, said most people searched through the night for the boy and continued Thursday to “hope and pray” for his return.
“We try to think of where a 4-year-old would try to seek refuge and seek shelter,” she said. “It’s comforting to know the community turned out like this and people are there for each other.”
Patrick Boulter, who also lives nearby, spent some time searching the area.
“This is every parent’s worse nightmare,” Boulter said. “You look away for a second and that’s all it takes.”
Amy Russell, who lives in a nearby neighborhood, searched Wednesday night and returned Thursday to continue to help.
“It’s a little boy missing and it’s Christmas. I would want somebody to continue to look for one of my kids if it was them,” Russell said. “We just want him found safely.”
Anyone with information about the boy can call Horry County police at 915-TIPS.