New details on the tragic case of little Jerold Joseph Williams, the 5-year-old boy who wandered out of his mom’s sight while chasing grasshoppers at an Arizona campsite Thursday, began to emerge on Tuesday as one searcher spoke out about his heartbreak over the search effort’s failure to locate Jerold before it was too late.
The body of Jerold Williams was discovered about 20 feet from a service road in Kaibab National Forest on Monday afternoon. He was found fully clothed. Neither foul play nor abduction is suspected.
The boy and his mother has wandered about 200 yards away from their group — about 20 family and friends on camping trip near Lake Jacob, Arizona — when the mother “lost sight” of the 3’6″ boy. The campers attempted to look for Gerald on their own for about three hours before calling police, believing that Jerold could not have strayed far from the camp.
But they never found him.
Now, it appears that Jerold somehow lost his bearings and wandered away in the opposite direction from the campsite, walking for at least eight miles until he could no longer keep going.
“It sounds like for the most part he literally walked himself to exhaustion the way he was found, it looks like he literally ran himself into the ground,” said searcher Fredrick Niehans.
Preliminary autopsy results conducted by coroners at the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s office indicated that Jerold died from exposure to environmental elements, almost certainly on the first night that he went missing, which was last Thursday, August 6.
“I feel like I failed, I let him down,” Niehans told Phoenix TV station KSAZ. “Maybe I should’ve come up a day earlier, maybe I shouldn’t have come back to camp and taken a two hour nap.”
Niehans said that the searchers — of which there were about 1,000, according to the Coconino Couny Sheriff’s Department — covered a huge area, much of it rugged terrain about 40 miles north of Grand Canyon National Park.
“We would go as far as our vehicles could get us, and then we would get out and hike hours on end, we would go to ravines, rocky ledges, anywhere a 5-year-old boy might hide,” Niehans recalled. “It was a very emotional roller coaster because you thought maybe here, every now and then we’d find a crevice where a child might hide, you get that hope.”
The search for Jerold Williams took four nights and five days, covering 21 square miles of wilderness.
[Images: Coconino County Sheriff’s Department]