A 5-year-old autistic boy who wandered away from a family party with no shoes and no coat was found dead two days later in a nearby canal, authorities announced.
Jayliel Vega Batista had slipped away from a New Year’s Eve celebration at a relative’s Allentown, Pennsylvania, home. The boy had nothing on his feet and temperatures hovered in the 30s.
Several adults and children were at the gathering but the boy somehow disappeared without anyone noticing, police said.
For two days and two very cold nights, volunteers, bloodhounds and law enforcement crews combed the area while distraught relatives refused to give up hope.
On Saturday morning, his mother, Yelitza Batista, told The Morning Call, “I’m broken and I’m empty. This is like a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I know he’s crying for me, wondering what’s going on.”
By late Saturday, the nightmare had just gotten worse.
Defeated-looking authorities announced that searchers had found the boy’s body in a canal near his house. A computer tablet that he had been playing with during the party was found earlier in the six-foot waters.
The boy’s family and community members had all joined the search, bearing flashlights and heavy hearts.
— Greg Argos (@GregArgosCBS3) January 3, 2016
An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.
Allentown police Chief Keith Morris called the death a “tragic accident” and said there is no evidence of foul play.
An investigation of the boy’s death is ongoing.