HAZARD—The investigation continued this week into the case of a 3-year-old male who went missing Wednesday afternoon, but was later found on a strip job just above his house.
Deputy Jerry Burns with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office said the child, Aiden Wallen, was reported missing at around 2:30 p.m. from his father and step-mother’s residence on Opec Lane in the Dwarf community of Perry County.
“We responded down there and spoke with the step-mother and she stated she had fell asleep around 11:30 a.m. and woke up about 1:40 p.m., and the child was missing,” Burns said, adding that the step-mother was home alone at the time.
Burns said officers and rescue crews responded within minutes of the call coming through, and were searching the perimeter of the area for nearly three hours before the child was located.
“(At) roughly 5:15 p.m. or 5:20 p.m. we found him on a mountain on the strip job behind his house, which is actually straight up a mountain,” Burns explained. “A subject on a four wheeler said he heard a kid yelling, so that’s when … we all went up there and we located him standing on some rocks.”
Burns said Wallen was not wearing a shirt, though he had a hooded sweatshirt tied around his neck like a cape, and was wearing Windbreaker pants and slip-on shoes.
The only visible injuries the child sustained were minor cuts from briars, Burns said, adding that crews were lucky to find him just before a massive snow storm hit the region.
“As soon as we located him it started snowing real hard, it was like within seconds,” he said.
Burns said Wallen was taken to the Hazard ARH, but was checked out fine and was released by 9:30 p.m.
“The hospital said there’s no way that he had been out in the weather over 30 minutes, or he would have had hypothermia,” Burns said.
Burns explained that officials investigating the case believe that the child was not left in the cold the entire time he was gone from his home and had possibly been picked up by someone and later left at the strip job. This has been based solely on his physical condition when he was found and the location he was found at.
“I walked that mountain where he supposedly went up, and there’s no way,” Burns said. “We’re thinking that someone had dropped him off up there because it’s about impossible to walk straight up that mountain.”
Burns added even if Wallen had taken an alternate route that did not involve climbing the mountain, he still would have had to walk nearly five miles to get to where he was found.
“It would have been a hard walk,” he said.
Officials received a tip after Wallen had been reported missing on Wednesday that a woman in the area had seen a young boy matching Wallen’s description walking on a road across the street from his house just before 2 p.m., Burns said.
“But he had a totally different outfit on from what this kid was wearing. So, we don’t know if that’s related or not. We think someone picked the child up at the bottom of the road and took him to the strip job,” he said.
If anyone has any information regarding this case, whether they think they saw the child walking on the road around the time he was missing or they think they saw someone pick him up, Burns said they should contact the sheriff’s office immediately at 606-439-4523.
The investigation is currently ongoing, Burns said, adding that at this point, without any other tips or leads, officials are relying on information from the only person they positively know was involved—the child.
“Right now, he’s pretty much the only one who knows what happened,” Burns said.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.