Community search played huge role in locating autistic teen
When a teenager with autism who requires round-the-clock care went missing this week, an Urban Search and Rescue was launched. But when the exhaustive search failed to locate 19-year-old Hunter Valant, friends, family and strangers stepped up to help. Their persistence paid off when he was found safe Tuesday night, hiding out in a shed.
Roommates Stephen Logan and Jeff Hunter say they're still surprised the day-long search for the missing teen ended in their backyard shed.
Hunter Valant was missing for about 28 hours and his disappearance prompted a search in the area of 75th and Oaklandon. He was found hiding in a shed a little under two miles from home.
The Urban Search and Rescue was called off at 3:00 pm Tuesday after police and fire crews combed the neighborhood three times. But Hunter's family, friends and even total strangers put out the word on Facebook, organized their own searches and kept looking.
"Facebook was huge. That is how I found out about it. I immediately called some of my Scout parents and we started making phone calls," said David Hoyt, volunteer searcher.
After volunteers found some of his clothing, they suspected he might be hiding somewhere. Hunter's family urged people to check their garages and sheds, and it paid off.
Two roommates who noticed a window screen out at their house decided to investigate. They found Hunter Valant inside their shed unharmed. He went missing Monday afternoon and eluded both police and volunteer searchers.
But when the two men noticed things out of place in their backyard, it led to finding Hunter and getting him safely back home.
"We both walked out here and that is when we noticed the lawn mower was tethered to the door to keep it closed. Once we opened it up and looked in there that is when we found him in there," said Stephen Logan.
"I started talking to him. He was wrapped up in some blankets. He had all that food out there. He kind of raided out fridge and got a ton of muscle milks, peanut butter and jelly, a couple of pizzas. It must be from another house. It wasn't ours," said Jeff Austin.
Austin said Hunter was apologetic. "He said he was sorry for getting food, sorry he scared the dog. I told him it was okay."
Paramedics treated the 19-year-old in the back of an ambulance after he was found just after 10:00 pm Tuesday. They covered him with a blanket to help keep him warm.
Hunter and his family spent most of the night at the hospital. They are back home now.
Hunter's aunt Jill Wamsley left the roommates a gift. She also wants everyone who helped in the search to know how grateful her family is.
"People that we didn't even know came out of the woodwork to help us so it just really encouraged our family," she said.