For two hours on Sunday, sheriff's deputies methodically scoured the woods in a Pensacola suburb, frantically searching for a 3-year-old boy with autism who'd vanished. They came up empty, so they decided to pull out the big guns: the K9 team. "Once the [dogs] hit the ground, it was 28 minutes until we got the child," Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson tells the Miami Herald. Aedric Hughes' mother says his "little adventure" began when he slipped out of a house in Pace after unlocking the front door's deadbolt while his grandmother was in the bathroom. As he wandered into the trees behind a neighbor's house, his disappearance was discovered and the authorities were summoned.
"The most terrifying words a mother can get on the phone is 'your child is missing, get home right now,'" Audra Hughes says, though she notes the "best news I've ever heard in my life" came a couple of hours after: "We found your kid." Police are now crediting the bloodhounds for tracking down Aedric about 200 yards away, in the midst of mud, briars, and "nasty moss." Rescuers could only get to him by using a machete. Thankfully, the boy suffered nothing more than some bug bites and scratches. "Great job Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office!" District One Commissioner Sam Parker wrote on Facebook in a post that includes pictures of Aedric's rescue, per FOX 35. "Their bloodhounds found a missing 3 year old autistic boy who was lost in the woods today. Thank you to everyone else that came out to help with this effort." (Read more missing child stories.)