NEW BERN, N.C. — When investigators found 3-year-old Casey Hathaway in the woods, the public almost immediately began to speculate about what happened.
On Thursday of last week, Casey was found alive after he disappeared the Tuesday before.
The Craven County boy had been playing outside with two other kids at about 1 p.m in the backyard of his grandmother’s home when he disappeared.
He was found by professional search and rescue crews off Toler and Aurora roads Thursday night
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes has now shed more light on the discovery of the missing boy in an interview with WCTI.
One of the questions that kept popping up was if Casey was really lost in the woods or if someone abducted him before leaving him in the woods.
“The notion that he was sitting in a house or a vehicle for two days and put out there a couple of hours before we found him is absolutely not true,” Hughes told WCTI. “His core temperature was very low, his fingers and all had a bit of frost bite. A lot of it, according to what medical was telling us, was conducive for him being out in the elements for an extended period of time.”
The sheriff believes Casey didn’t just stay put in the woods. Instead, he roamed around with an hour’s head start on the search team.
“Once we got the K-9s there, so many people before we got there walked through that area and disturbed the ground,” the sheriff said.
Perhaps the strangest part of the boy’s discovery was a comment from Casey’s mom. The boy claims that he was in the company of a bear.
Hughes said that, considering the harsh, wet conditions, he believes the kid was looked after and his survival was miracle.
But the sheriff was apprehensive to say if the boy’s story was fact or fiction.
“I don’t know if that meant he saw a bear,” Hughes told WCTI. “I don’t know if that meant a bear embraced him or what it meant. I thought it was a very cute story and if that’s what helped that child survive through this, you know what, I’m to going to embrace that story that came from a three-year-old, to his mom, to us.”
At this time, there is no evidence of criminal activity in this case.