On Jan. 27, Gannon Stauch, an 11-year-old Colorado Springs boy, vanished from his home after staying home sick from school.
More than two weeks later, there is still no sign of the fifth-grader, and his family and law enforcement are still looking for answers.
The FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and 15 other agencies have joined the search. Last Thursday, as temperatures dropped and snow fell, the sheriff’s office announced it was searching bodies of water near Gannon’s home using a remote-operated vehicle with sonar and video.
“It’s being worked 24 hours a day to bring Gannon home,” says sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby in this week’s issue of PEOPLE magazine. “Time is of the essence.”
Here are five things to know about the child’s disappearance.
1. Gannon was last seen by his stepmother on Jan. 27
On Monday, Jan. 27, Gannon stayed home from Grand Mountain School. Gannon’s stepmother, Letecia “Tecia” Stauch, told police he left the family’s home between 3 and 4 p.m. to walk to a friend’s house. When he didn’t come home, Tecia said she called the sheriff and reported him as a runaway.
Gannon’s father Albert, an active-duty Army National Guardsman, flew home the following day from Oklahoma, where he had been training. Gannon’s biological mother, Landen Hiott, who lives in South Carolina, arrived soon afterward.
Three days later, the El Paso County Sherriff’s Office upgraded the search status from runaway to an endangered missing child.
In an exclusive new statement to Fox Denver 31, Tecia Stauch thanked those looking for her stepson, and begged him to come home — also offering explanations about Gannon’s whereabouts prior to his disappearance: “First and foremost, I would like to thank all agencies, volunteers, and community members who are working diligently and praying endlessly to bring Gannon home safe. … To Gannon, please come home soon because your daddy is waiting to watch the new Sonic movie that comes out this week and the cool shirt I got you to wear to the theatre is in your closet.”
2. Gannon was born premature and he beat the odds: ‘miracle’
When Gannon was born, he weighed only 1 lb. 6 oz., and doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of survival. Family and friends marveled at how he grew from a “micro-preemie” to a gifted school student.
“He was born extremely premature, and he survived,” Gannon’s great-aunt Veronica Birkenstock tells PEOPLE. “But even surviving, there was reason to believe that he would have some severe disabilities and none of that manifested. He’s gifted and talented, which in itself is a miracle.”
Read more about the ongoing search for Gannon Stauch in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Birkenstock says Gannon has already grown into a leader.
“He makes good choices,” she says. “A lot of those skills were developed with his little sister — looking after her and taking care of her.”
3. Police have received more than 300 tips — and hundreds have joined the search
Hundreds of volunteers on foot and horseback have scoured Gannon’s Lorson Ranch neighborhood and beyond, and the El Paso County sheriff’s office is chasing down hundreds of tips. Last week, a mobile crime lab was parked outside the Stauch home gathering evidence, and investigators are looking through a “massive amount” of surveillance footage.
Kirby says as many as 15 detectives are working full-time on finding Gannon.
4. Neighbors put up blue light bulbs — Gannon’s favorite color — to “guide him home”
As soon as Gannon was reported missing, neighbors began to rally on the Lorson Ranch neighborhood Facebook page.
“Literally, within an hour, there were over 1,000 comments on this post,” Danee Jones, who lives in the neighborhood, tells PEOPLE. “People out in their cars. My house backs up to an empty field. At 3 in the morning, there were people out there searching for Gannon.”
Soon, neighbors replaced lights throughout the complex with blue bulbs—Gannon’s favorite color—and tied blue balloons and ribbon to trees “to help guide Gannon home,” says Salvation Army captain Caleb Fankhauser.
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5. Gannon’s Parents Pleaded for Answers in Emotional Video
On Feb. 5, Landen Hiott and Al Stauch released a tearful video statement with Gannon’s sister Laina, asking potential witnesses to come forward to help them find their son.
“…A kid just doesn’t disappear and no one sees him,” Hiott said in the video released by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. “That’s not how this works. So if you have anything that’s credible … please call, please write.”