MENIFEE, Calif. (AP) — The search for an 11-year-old autistic boy took a disturbing turn on Wednesday as authorities began treating his California home as a crime scene and searched for human remains.
Terry Dewayne Smith Jr. was reported missing on Sunday in the Riverside County community of Menifee. Searches of the area with a bloodhound and a helicopter were unsuccessful.
Hundreds of volunteers later joined the effort in scorching heat but also failed to find the boy.
Menifee Mayor Scott Mann said in an email that investigators were trying to determine if there were human remains on the property.
TV news helicopters showed investigators gathered around a hole in a fenced area several dozen feet from the home in a semirural area 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where temperatures have topped 100 degrees.
Sheriff’s detectives were led to the home shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday by evidence indicating there might be a body on the property, Deputy Albert Martinez told the Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1ab9yw7 ).
Further details were not released, but the search was suspended by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“Our searchers are on standby. We are waiting to see what investigators find on the property,” Martinez told KNX-AM radio.
Volunteers, however, planned to keep searching the surrounding area for the boy.
“Until we have absolute confirmation from the sheriff directly, we will continue to do our job, which is to search,” said a posting on a Facebook page where the volunteer search was organized.
About 1,000 people, including deputies on horseback, emergency workers and volunteers, joined the effort on Tuesday.
Authorities were concerned that Terry wandered away without food, water or his medication.
The 4-foot-8 boy with sandy brown hair and brown eyes was last seen wearing blue basketball shorts. Local children were asked to not wear blue to avoid confusion.
Terry was last seen Saturday night, reportedly following his 16-year-old half-brother, who told the boy to go home, the Desert Sun said. The boy’s mother said she didn’t realize he was missing until the next day.
She shared details of the boy’s habits on the searchers’ Facebook page. Without his medication, Terry may be “over sensitive and may be walking on his tiptoes,” the page said.
Searchers were also instructed to use his nickname “Juju” because hearing his full name called out might cause him to think he’s in trouble and flee.