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Putnam County deputies find missing 9-year-old boy

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – A 9-year-old boy who disappeared from the Bardin area of Putnam County was found safe Monday afternoon, deputies said.

Central District deputies, K-9 units and detectives had been searching for Brandon Varnes, who went missing about 7:30 a.m. Monday at his home on Landrum Lane in Bardin.

Deputies said he walked out his back door without shoes on, with a couple of boxes of snack cakes, and headed into the woods, which encompass about 30 acres. A younger sibling saw him leave, but did not tell Brandon's parents for nearly two hours, deputies said.

Brandon was familiar with the area, deputies said. Searchers found several plastic wrappers and footprints in the woods and tracked them for about 2.5 miles through the woods before finding the boy. 

"He's alive and well. He was barefoot this morning so we were able to follow his foot impressions with K-9s. He left the house with a couple of boxes of snack cakes or Little Debbies and we were able to find some of those wrappers along the trail as well," Putnam County Sheriff's Office Capt. Gator Deloach said.

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K-9 teams and ATV teams from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife, Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement helped in the search. A helicopter from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office also checked the area.

Deloach said it was that helicopter that spotted Brandon and allowed deputies to go into the wooded area on ATV and pick the boy up. 

Brandon previously went missing in the same woods in August 2014. He disappeared around midnight on a Friday and was found early Saturday morning about a mile and a half from his home. He had minor scratches but no other injuries.

Authorities said that time he wandered off through the woods just after midnight, climbed into a neighbor's boat for a little while, and then went into the woods again.

Deloach also said that the Department of Children and Families was on scene to assist police and help the family with any resources that they need to stop this from happening in the future. 

"DCF is on scene here so they'll be very proactive, I'm sure, about making certain this family has the resources they need to be able to deal with this," Deloach said.