BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities on Friday found a 2-year-old boy who wandered away from his home in a rural area of Hernando County, Florida.
A missing-child alert was issued for Joshua “J.J.” Rowland shortly before sundown on Thursday, several hours after the search began.
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to a home in North Brooksville about an hour after J.J.’s mother realized he was missing.
In a news conference Friday morning, Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the boy left the home while his mother was sleeping.
Nearly 100 law enforcement officials from neighboring counties and the U.S. Marshals traveled to the area to assist with the second day of the search, Nienhuis said. Volunteers also helped.
Just before 11 a.m. Friday, the sheriff’s office confirmed that a volunteer had found J.J. alive and safe. According to the sheriff, the boy was smiling and fine despite being out in the wild overnight.
“He’s definitely gonna have something to tell his kids and grandkids about,” Nienhuis said.
The sheriff praised the local community for volunteering to help find J.J., saying the vast majority of people in his county are good-hearted citizens.
“I think a lot of people were praying, and prayer works,” Nienhuis said to a cheering crowd.
The volunteer who found J.J., U.S. Marine Corps veteran Roy Link, said he originally planned on going on a fishing trip Friday morning, but something told him to join the search for the toddler instead.
According to Link, he heard J.J. making whimpering noises and found him in the woods in north Brooksville.
“He was real happy, and he wanted mom,” Link said. “Deputies showed up. I guess I made a friend real quick ’cause he hung onto me, and he didn’t want to go to anybody until his parents showed up.”
Aside from some scratches, J.J. was in pretty good shape and seemed happy to be found, according to Link.
Christina Sowers, one of J.J.’s cousins, said she was ecstatic that the little boy was found alive.
“I am so excited they found that baby,” she said.
Sowers said she had great respect for the volunteers who worked to find J.J.
“There was a mom I talked to here today who lost her son in a drowning 23 years ago, and she was here today looking for this baby,” she said. “It’s incredible.”