Missing 2-Year-Old Found Alive and Safe in Swampy Florida Woods: 'I Want Mommy'

Missing toddler found safe
Joshua "J.J." Rowland and his rescuer, Marine Corps veteran Roy Link.Hernando County Sheriff's Office

Joshua “J.J." Rowland wanted his mommy and was covered in scratches and bug bites. The toddler had been missing for a day when volunteer rescuer Roy Link found the little boy.

He was barefoot, covered in scratches and wanted his mommy, but 2-year-old Joshua Rowland was otherwise OK and very glad to see volunteer rescuer Roy Link, who found him whimpering in swampy, Florida woods.

The toddler, whose nickname is "J.J.," was all by his lonesome, sporting a very soggy diaper and head-to-toe bug bites, when Link, a Marine Corps veteran, stumbled upon him Friday as scores of volunteers were looking for the child who was reported missing Thursday by his mother.

Link said he heard the little boy crying and walked toward the sound. Eventually, he came upon J.J., who lifted his arms toward the man towering over him. "I want mommy," he said.

Link hoisted the boy onto his hip, and called to report he had the missing toddler.

“Hey, I found him,” Link told the 911 dispatcher.

“You found him?” the 911 operator said. “Where are you at?”

In the background, a tiny voice repeated, “I want mommy.”

“How is he doing?” asked the dispatcher.

“He’s alive. He’s doing well,” Link said. “I’m giving him some water and he’s wanting momma."

J.J. had been on his own for 24 hours after he apparently wandered away from his Hernando County home while his parents were sleeping. He was found some two miles from his house.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office released audio of the call. On it, Link is heard comforting and praising the child.

“Good job, buddy. Way to make it,” he told the boy.

“He’s got some scratches, some scrapes and bruises, but for over 24 hours in the woods, yeah, he did great,” Link told the operator.

As Link stepped into an open field, one arm around the boy straddling his waist, cries of joy were heard from other searchers.

Volunteers, local police, and officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Corrections had helped county deputies look for the toddler.

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis took to Facebook to thank all who searched for J.J. The sheriff also posted video of him thanking the boy's rescuer, a 62-year-old grandfather who looked a little sheepish at all the attention. Link said he had asked for help trying to locate the missing child. 

"I said a prayer about 10 minutes before I found him," Link said. 

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