The little body of Jerold Joseph Williams, a five-year-old boy who went missing last Thursday afternoon while chasing grasshoppers at a camp site not far from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, was found Monday, bringing an end to a massive search that involved the National Guard, helicopters from Nellis Air Force Base, and nearly 1,000 people including volunteers as well as law enforcement and emergency workers.
The boy and his mother, who were on a camping trip with approximately 20 friends and family members in Kaibab National Forest just outside of Lake Jacob, Arizona, and about 44 miles from Grand Canyon National Park, had wandered about 200 yards away from their group when Jerold's mother reportedly "lost sight" of the little boy — described as standing three-and-a-half feet tall and weighing 35 pounds.
Family members, originally believing that Jerold could not have wandered far and would be easy to locate, searched for about three hours before calling police.
But Jerold had somehow eluded them and become lost.
He was found Monday at about 4:30 p.m. local time by volunteer searchers who spotted his body from the back of a pickup truck as they drove down a service road in the forest. The boy was lying about 20 feet off the road — about 3.7 miles from where he was last seen, if Jerold had taken a direct route.
But in a statement, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office said that Jerold likely walked along roads, which would have been a walk of more than eight miles.
"Because Jerold was found close to the road and the road would have been a natural walking area for him compared to the very thick brush, it is believed that Jerold probably found his way to Forest Road 240 and followed it to Forest Road 241 in the direction away from the camp site and may have walked off into the forest to lay down to rest," the statement issued Tuesday read.
According to the sheriff's office, Jerold Williams most likely perished from exposure to the elements on the first night he was missing, when the weather became severe, with high winds and heavy rain.
Those same elements hindered the initial search efforts for the boy, as did a lack of daylight resulting from the delayed call to police.
"An autopsy was performed today and Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office preliminary findings appear to be accidental death due to environmental exposure," the sheriff's statement said. "Based on the environmental conditions Jerold was exposed to it is unlikely he survived the first night."
Jerold Joseph Williams was found fully clothed with "no obvious external injuries." No foul play is suspected in his heartbreaking death.
[Image: Coconino County Sheriff's Department]