A missing two-year-old boy was found in the woods more than 24 hours after he disappeared from the the yard of his family home in Florida.
Joshua ‘JJ’ Rowland was photographed barefoot and grazed but smiling in the arms of a volunteer who discovered him around a half a mile north of his home in Brooksville, near Tampa.
He was last seen at around 10am on Thursday morning playing with dogs in his yard while his mother was sleeping inside.
More than 500 volunteers turned up on Friday morning to assist nearly 100 law enforcement officials in the search, which saw the use of ATVs, infrared cameras, horses and helicopters.
Rowland was found by Roy Link, a former marine and one of the volunteers, who said that after spending the night alone the boy was so scared he wouldn’t let him go of him.
After spending more than 24 hours outside Joshua ‘JJ’ Rowland was found by volunteer and former marine Roy Link (pictured) who was one of 500 that turned up
Joshua ‘JJ’ Rowland, two, was photographed barefooted and grazed in the arms of a volunteer who discovered him around a half a mile north of his home in Brooksville, near Tampa
Another photo of Rowland shared by his father moments after his discovery shows him on the lap of his tearful mother. Scattered across his body were were scratches and what looked to be nettle stings
‘I was hoping and praying for a miracle. I certainly was not expecting one but, I think a lot of people were praying and prayer works,’ said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis.
Link told the Sheriff that he too had said a prayer just ten minutes before finding the child.
Another photo of Rowland shared by his father moments after his discovery shows him on the lap of his tearful mother. ‘He’s home safe thank you God,’ he wrote.
The boy was still grinning but scattered across his body were were scratches and what looked to be nettle stings.
The search was paused overnight while law enforcement used the IR cameras to scour the area but nothing of significance was found, the Hernando County Sheriff said on Friday morning.
‘He’s definitely going to have something to tell his kids and grandkids about and I’m sure mom and dad are going to keep a closer eye on him from this point forward,’ the sheriff said.
‘We had no clue what happened to him,’ he added. Rowland’s mother told deputies that she and the boy were settled in for a nap around 9.30am and when she woke up he was missing.
She said she spent around an hour looking for him before alerting authorities. On Friday evening the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a statewide Missing Child Alert.
The alert listed the boy as being in a batman t-shirt and gray pajama bottoms, the same clothes he was found in.
‘I was hoping and praying for a miracle. I certainly was not expecting one but, I think a lot of people were praying and prayer works,’ said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis
Nearly 100 law enforcement officials were involved in the search, which saw the use of ATVs, infrared cameras, horses and helicopters
A renewed search effort began as the sun rose on Friday morning
He was found just south of Parrott Middle School, around half a mile north of where he was last seen in the area of Yontz Road and Cheever road, the sheriff’s office said.
Initially on Thursday afternoon people were being asked to search their personal property, including houses and cars.
‘We ask everyone in the area who lives in this general area to please go outside of their property, look at bushes, look at any cars that are unlocked…to find this little fellow,’ Denise Maloney, a spokesperson for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.
The renewed search effort began as the sun rose on Friday morning. Hernando County Sheriff’s Office put out a notice at around 10am saying that it had an abundance of volunteers and did not need any more.
Rowlands aunt and father were both appealing for help finding the boy. Tonya Lindblade, his aunt, posted on Facebook on Monday night, saying: ‘We are worried sick people are still frantically search for him and thank you so much for all the prayers and the people searching. I hope he is safe and comes home soon.’
His father shared the positive news on Friday afternoon: ‘Dealing with a lot but it meant the world for everybody reaching out for my baby. Amen.’