LIVE OAK, Fla. - After a two-day search, Live Oak police say they found a body Friday morning in a swampy area less than a quarter mile from where a 9-year-old autistic boy disappeared from his mother's home before dawn on Wednesday.
"We cannot confirm that it is or is not the body of Leo Walker. We are going to continue our searches. We're going to continue our investigation into the original missing child call," Police Chief Buddy Williams said at a mid-afternoon news conference. "We're trying to make sure that what we have is completed and completed thoroughly."
FDLE issued a statewide missing child alert Wednesday morning. By Friday morning, a dozen law enforcement agencies and over 100 community volunteers conducting a grid search for Leo, last seen in his Duval Street home.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI had joined with Live Oak police, the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office and dozens of community volunteers conducting a grid search for Leo. Helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, ATVs, dive teams and bloodhounds were also involved in the search.
Police said Leo had gotten away before, but was found quickly about a block from his home. Searchers over the last two days were given instructions to help them find Leo, who cannot speak and was likely to hide from those searching for him.
"He is a very gentle, loving kind child," said Laurie Brown, the boy's aunt. "Because he is autistic, he goes through like a manic personality: One minute he's happy and one minute he is upset. And when he is upset, he touches his chest and he hums."
In a 5 p.m. news conference on Friday, authorities said they are refocusing the search for Leo on talking to people in the surrounding neighborhood, and they are no longer asking for civilian volunteers to help in the search.
Leo Walker's mom posted on Facebook... saying "My baby Leo has went to heaven to be with Jesus. My Heart is empty. I miss my little angel. He no longer has autism. He is speaking and in heaven with his daddy."
Friday night, some mementos had been left near the site where the boy's body was found (pictured).
Earlier in the search, Rachelle Simmons said she saw posts on social media about the missing 9-year-old boy and wanted to do something.
"I left my lights on, I have security lights on, I left a blanket and pillow outside for him last night just in case," said Simmons. "And then I was like, 'They're still searching.' I told my husband that, cause he's a correctional officer, I said I'm heading up there, I'm going to look for him."
The fact Leo's missing had complete strangers dropping everything.
"Because I have children of my own and I think that if something were to happen to mine, I'd be happy that the community is coming together to search for my own child," said Simmons. "I've raised my grandson and the thought of him being lost and not knowing where he's at at all times just scares me, so I would want someone to do this for me if it happen to my son."
Anyone who has any information about the boy or his disappearance is asked to call the Live Oak police at 386-330-3501 or the FDLE Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse at 888-FL-MISSING.
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