Missing 13-year-old's love of gum helped deputies find him

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) After a two-hour search in freezing temperatures Tuesday night, Kershaw County Sheriff's Deputies located a missing special-needs teenager.

The 13-year old boy was reported missing from a facility which cares for special-needs children. Deputies were told the young man climbed out a window and headed into the woods.  The teenager was not wearing shoes or warm clothing.

"We knew we needed to find this young man very quickly," said Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews. "With the temperatures dropping, we knew he could be facing hypothermia.  As it turns out, the cold weather actually helped us find him. One of my deputies found footprints in the snow and tracked them to the young man."

Matthews said snow wasn't the only thing deputies used to find the boy. The staff at the facility caring for the boy said he loves chewing gum. Matthews says officers heard a noise during the search, but couldn't see him because of the dark.

Remembering the boy liked gum, one of the deputies yelled out, "We've got some chewing gum. Would you like some?" Upon hearing this the boy came out of the darkness to the officers.

The missing teen was safe and taken to KershawHealth for observation.

"I am proud of the response of the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office and thankful for the willingness of the Elgin Police Department, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and State Law Enforcement Division to quickly assist us," said Sheriff Matthews.

According to Matthews, the case happened to be called in just prior to a shift change at the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office, so there were twice as many deputies available to respond.

Officers from the Elgin Police Department, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the State Law Enforcement Division also responded.

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