Rumors that Titus Tackett may have been murdered are spreading online, but so far, police say the death of the 3-year-old who went missing and was later found in a van points toward a tragic accident.
Tackett went missing last week from his home in the Lake Killarney area of Iron County, Missouri. After a search that covered the surrounding area and drew police from across the region, Tackett's body was found inside a van, Ozarks First reported.
Police currently have not offered an explanation for how Titus Tackett died, although initial circumstances indicate that hypothermia or exposure could be likely. Police say the toddler walked away from his home sometime in the early morning hours on Wednesday wearing only a diaper as temperatures outside dipped below freezing.
Tackett was later found dead inside a van, covered in a blanket.
There are now five agencies looking into the boy's disappearance and death, and an autopsy has been ordered. Although police said no initial indications point to foul play, there are rumors spreading online that Titus Tackett may have been murdered.
"How did a 3-year-old open the van? Walked 1 mile with only a diaper on with temp in teens! Who covered him with a blanket?" shared one person on Twitter.
3 yr old Titus Tackett's cousin says family hopes autopsy today to bring answers about what happened to little boy. pic.twitter.com/aXoRPkxNAM
— Chris Regnier (@chrisregniertv) February 11, 2016
The rumors that Titus Tackett may have been murdered appear to be based solely on speculation. Family members said Titus was an adventurous boy who had left the house on other occasions.
"He's a smart little boy," said Julie Hurst, the cousin of Titus's mother, in an interview with Ozarks First. "He's very intelligent, he knows how to start four wheelers so we are looking anywhere and everywhere."
There are also no indications from the neighbor who found the boy's body that foul play could have been involved.
"I freaked out and my heart sunk, you know for the little guy, but he was a long way from home," Tom Ritchie told WECT. "He was probably a good mile from home; and all of a sudden a guy who told me, 'Go down there and look,' he come up there and that ended up being his house."
The disappearance and death of Titus Tackett appear very similar to the death of Noah Chamberlin last month. The Tennessee 2-year-old went missing during a nature walk with his grandmother and older sister, prompting a search that drew in thousands of volunteers and law enforcement officials from across the area. His body was found nearly a week later in a wooded area not far from the family's home.
Like the death of Titus Tackett, Chamberlin's death prompted rumors that the boy may have been murdered. But police repeatedly said that they had no reason to suspect foul play.
"Everybody we talked to talked about how he ran all the time, jumped over tables, ran, just nonstop," said Madison County Sheriff John Mehr. "He loved to hide. We had people tell us that even adults would run after him, and they couldn't catch him."
"Just like grandma said, she turned her head for a minute and he was gone," said Chester County Sheriff Blair Weaver. "There were trails everywhere."
Authorities said the boy ended up wandering too far into the forest and into an area missed by search crews.
"This is an area we expanded our search into. Every day we expanded our search farther and farther," Madison County Fire Chief Eric Turner said, via WMCA Action News. "This was an area that was on the outskirts of what we had searched, and we were back searching it for the second time. It was right on the borderline of where we had been searching and we expanded our search farther."
Police may be able to know soon if Titus Tackett was murdered or if, as they suspect, he died of natural causes. Initial results from the toddler's autopsy are expected soon after it is completed on Thursday.
[Image via Facebook/WECT]