Rescuers searching for an autistic toddler missing since Friday afternoon recovered the little boy’s body Saturday near a Lake Palestine marina some distance away from his home, authorities said.
Smith County Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Wiginton said an autopsy is planned, standard protocol for incidents involving missing persons.
“We’re doing more investigation right now,” he said. “We’re going to talk to the mother and grandparents some more.”
Wiginton said talks with the boy’s family should not be construed as an indication of foul play, but rather the next step in the death investigation.
“We’re going to make sure we do things right,” he said.
The grim discovery was made some time around 1:30 p.m., in the midst of a massive search operation by land, air and water.
Rescue personnel from numerous fire and law enforcements agencies, some coming from as far as Louisiana, participated in the efforts.
The lieutenant said the toddler’s body was found “a good little ways” from his home, but did not specify the location of the marina.
Roads leading toward the child’s home were blocked to the public with only essential personnel and residents allowed in the secured area.
The boy’s mother, Tonya Reed, 25, said Friday she realized Evan was missing when she called his name and received no response.
The boy’s grandparents also reside at the house, but they were not home at the time of his disappearance, family members said.
Shortly after he was reported missing, a tearful Ms. Reed expressed sorrow over his absence.
“I want him back,” she said. “He’s my world. I can’t live without him. No one understands him better than me.”
The child’s grandmother, Sally Daly, a Tyler, nurse, described him as a friendly, energetic child who is “not scared of anything.”
The sheriff’s office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife and multiple fire departments including Noonday, Flint-Gresham and Longview were among those trying to find him.
Word of Evan’s disappearance also prompted an outpouring of support from neighbors and family friends, who aided authorities in the search well into the night.
Staff Writer Emily Guevara contributed to this report.