MENIFEE, Calif. (AP) — Authorities searching for a missing 11-year-old autistic boy cordoned off his Southern California home, but volunteers on Wednesday planned to search miles of surrounding desert in hopes of finding him alive.
TV news reports early Wednesday showed yellow crime scene tape around the semirural home of Terry Dewayne Smith Jr. in Menifee.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department has not said whether foul play was suspected in his weekend disappearance. Calls to department representatives seeking comment were not immediately returned.
The boy was last seen at the home on Saturday and authorities were concerned that he wandered away without food, water or his medication. Searchers have scoured a 55-square mile area where temperatures have topped 100 degrees every day since Terry disappeared.
The number of volunteers and emergency workers combing the dry brown hills of Menifee rose to about 1,000 on Tuesday, but they found no sign of the boy.
"We pledge that we will continue this search effort until such time as circumstances dictate otherwise," Menifee Mayor Scott Mann said at a news conference. "We will continue searching. We will find Terry."
The Sheriff's Department and numerous other agencies, including the FBI, aided in the investigation and search of the region about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles with the help of bloodhounds, helicopters and horseback riders.
The 4-foot-8 boy with sandy brown hair and brown eyes was last seen wearing blue basketball shorts. Local children were asked to not wear blue, to help avoid confusion.
Terry was last seen when he followed his 16-year-old half-brother, who told the boy to go home, the Desert Sun reported. The boy's mother didn't realize he was missing until the next day.
Terry's mother shared details of the boy's habits on a Facebook page where the volunteer search was being organized. Without his medication, Terry may be "over sensitive and may be walking on his tiptoes," the page said.
Searchers were also instructed to call him by his nickname "Juju" because hearing his full name called out might cause him to believe he's in trouble and flee.
Terry's aunt, Tracy Armato, told KCAL-TV that searchers should "be gentle. We don't know if he'll be scared of all the searchers."