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Mute, Autistic Boy Missing for Six Days Found Alive in Virginia Woods


"There is a God. He listens to prayers, and prayers were answered."

An eight-year-old mute autistic boy was found alive in a Virginia battlefield park Friday, six days after he vanished in the woods during an outing with his family.

Robert Wood Jr. was discovered in a quarry less than a mile from where he was last seen. He was curled up in the fetal position on a creek bed of wet leaves.

Hanover County Sheriff David Hines said Wood was in good condition but was taken to an area hospital for further evaluation.

Wood had been visiting the North Anna Battlefield Park with his family Sunday, Oct. 23 when they realized he had wandered away. Unable to find him, they reported his disappearance to the sheriff, who called in a local bloodhound canine squad. The bloodhounds detected the boy's scent in the area, leading to hopes he hadn't gone far.

His disappearance prompted a massive search with thousands of volunteers scouring the battlefield, about 20 miles north of Richmond, Va. Hines said so many volunteers came out to help that some had to be turned away.

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Wood does not speak, and would be unlikely to make a noise in response to someone calling his name, one of his teachers said. The area where he was found had been searched previously, so he probably had been roaming the area the entire time.

Adam Warman of the Faison School for Autism told local CBS affiliate WTVR-TV that students at the school were overjoyed when the announcement was made over the loudspeaker that their classmate had been found.

"They started yelling and cheering and crying," Warman said.

Wood's parents thanked the community and the searchers for their support and persistence.

"Robert is a very strong and determined little boy. We never gave up hope that he would return home safe," Robert Wood Sr. said in a statement. "There were some times that you just had to reach down and find that faith that you were going to find him. Whether it's appropriate or not for everyone, there is a God. He listens to prayers, and prayers were answered."

After the announcement, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell released a statement about the happy outcome, calling it "the best possible result to a very difficult situation."

"A true sense of community and selflessness was displayed as thousands of volunteers showed up day after day to participate in the search. The great dedication, optimism and vigilance of the many people who donated their time and energy to the search and rescue effort reflects the goodness of our Commonwealth," McDonnell, a Republican, said.

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