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Missing toddler found alive

ARCADIA — They’ve found him and he’s alive! Those words spread like wildfire just after 4 p.m. Wednesday through the staging area at the Blue Mountain Methodist Camp. After spending more than 50 hours alone in the woods, 3-year-old Joshua Childers was found.

Madison County Sheriff David Lewis said Joshua was found at 4:05 p.m. by a volunteer searcher, Donnie Halpin. Halpin’s wife told St. Louis television station KTVI Fox 2 that her husband is a construction worker and had been rained out from work on Wednesday. He heard the sheriff had requested additional assistance to search for the missing child so he decided to help.

She said her husband heard the young boy crying and found him. She said her husband carried the toddler out of the woods. Halpin found the boy on  private property and carried him to the home located on the property where they waited for police and EMS.

Halpin later told Democrat News General Manager Alan Kopitsky that Joshua was found behind the residence at 2857 D Highway in Iron County, about three miles from the Childers home at 4:05 p.m.

Halpin said he had seen some dogs “sniffin’ around” and when he walked up to where they were he “saw his (the toddler’s) butt stickin’ out.”

Halpin said that when he approached, he said “Hey bud,” and the boy sat up and he (Halpin) asked, “Do you wanna go home?” and the boy said, “Yeah.”

Lewis said Childers was found approximately three miles from his home. The young boy reportedly asked for a glass of milk and a hot dog after he was found. He told family members he had been on a hike and was going to his grandmother’s home.

“This is a miracle,” Lewis said. “He’s in good condition and appears to be fine. I’m so happy, you can’t believe it. It’s a miracle all these people were out here working this hard to find him.”

Approximately 500 volunteers were at the makeshift staging area at the Blue Mountain Methodist Camp to search for the child Wednesday. Some of them walked more than a mile through mud just to reach the staging area because of limited parking.

Richard Clubb of the Wolf Creek Fire Department searched for Childers on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said he left the Blue Mountain staging area at 4 o’clock Wednesday morning and was back at 11 a.m.

“We searched two to three hours on Tuesday with the dogs from MRC in St. Louis,” Clubb said. “We checked the area around the boy’s home. The dogs never did hit on anything. They ended up calling us back in that evening because of the storm.”

Several employees from Black River Electric Cooperative (BREC) participated in the search Wednesday. Dean Settle who works in the construction department for BREC spent the day shuttling volunteer searchers back and forth to the staging area in his company vehicle.

“We were having a safety meeting this morning at work and the company asked for volunteers to go out and search for the little boy. They announced that anyone who wanted to do it, were welcome to do it on company time.”

Settle estimated about 30 BREC employees were assisting with the search.

“The company said we are a community-minded service,” he said.

Roger Stevens is a maintenance coordinator for BREC who helped organize the search parties.

“We are a community-minded organization,” he said. “We always try to help when we can.

Lewis said the child was taken to Iron County Hospital in Pilot Knob to be checked out. He was reunited with his parents at the hospital. Hospital officials said the toddler was in fair condition and was going to spend the night for observation.

The little boy disappeared from his home located on Madison County Road 518 at about 11:40 a.m. on Monday.

According to authorities, the boy’s father works an overnight shift at his job and was sleeping on the couch while his mother was on the phone. The boy wandered out the back door. The parents searched for the boy for about 45 minutes before calling police.

“There is a lot of thick brush behind the house. It’s a rugged area,” said Lewis. “There are a lot of rocks, steep hills and ravines. It’s rough country. This area is part of the Mark Twain National Forest.”

Lewis said he never lost hope that the child would be found alive.

“The weather has been warm, which I think helped us out a bunch,” the sheriff said. “I never lost hope.”

In an ironic twist of fate, Pam Akers, the mother in the original “Missouri Miracle”, was visiting with the boy’s parents at the time they were informed their son had been found. Akers is the mother of Shawn Hornbeck who was abducted on Oct. 6, 2002. He was reunited with his parents on Jan. 12, 2007 after he was found in a Kirkwood apartment with Ben Ownby, who was also an abduction victim.

Chris Cline is a reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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