The Department of Children's Services is conducting its own investigation into how 9-year old Timothy Wallace died.


DCS Communications Director Rob Johnson says it's standard protocol for DCS to investigate a child's death if the department has a history with the family. DCS has been involved with family members regarding Timothy at least once in the last three years.


Johnson says the child death review does not point to definite wrongdoing or any immediate red flags, and DCS is aware Wallace was diagnosed with autism.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says 9-year old Timothy Wallace could not communicate with words.

The Director of the Chattanooga Autism Center says under-developed language skills are just one indication of the disorder.

"It can go from only a few words, to using sign language or no words," said David Buck of the Chattanooga Autism Center.

Another common challenge among children with autism is wandering.

The national Autism Association says 49 percent, roughly half of children with autism,  will attempt to wander from a safe environment.

case studies show wandering happens most during warmer months, family gatherings, outdoor parties and visits to non-home settings.

"It partly can be not being aware that it's a dangerous behavior," Buck said, "So just like a typical developing child can walk away from a safe environment, a person with autism who's not processing the environment in the same way, might not be aware of the dangers that are around them."

Family members tell Channel 3, Timothy Wallace loved playing outside and was amused by trains. He saw his first train just a few days before he died.

He was also known to wander and escape locked doors.

The Chattanooga Autism Center is one of the only local resource centers that offers diagnosis and support for people with autism. To learn more,
click here.


Detectives with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office have determined the death of nine-year-old Timothy Wallace was from being struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern train near Coulterville Rd.

Wallace's death is tough on the first responder's and searchers who went looking for him on Sunday night.

The boy's family said he was severely autistic and non-verbal. Wallace was visiting family at a home in the 500 block of Leggett Road in Sale Creek. He was reported missing at 10 p.m. Searchers found the boy's body along train tracks about an hour later.

Wallace was a third grader at Griffith Elementary in Dunlap.

Hamilton County STARS assisted the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Sale Creek Fire Department with the search.

"We've done everything we know we could do. And even though the outcome is tragic, at least we've brought closure to the family," said STARS Chief Clay Ingle.

The boy's grandmother described him as a sweet and happy boy who loved playing outside, but could find ways to escape locked doors easily. When they realized he was missing, they didn't know which direction he went.

The Norfolk Southern train operators told investigators they were unaware the train had struck a child. Heavy rain and fog made the search difficult in the rural, unlit area.

"You try and think, what would you do if it was yours?" asked Lola Howard, a grandmother of two. Howard's house backs up against train tracks not far from where Wallace was killed.

"They go pretty fast; more so at night I think," she said.

The boy's mother told Channel 3 he was amused by a train he saw for the first time just a couple days ago.

Wallace was the youngest of five siblings and several other half brothers and sisters. Funeral arrangements are still pending.

Detectives with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office have determined the death of nine-year-old Timothy Wallace was from being struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern train.

Young Wallace was reported missing Sunday night around 10:00pm from his family's home on Leggett Road in Sale Creek. 

Relatives described Wallace by relatives as suffering from autism and being non-verbal. 

After a search by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Sale Creek Fire Department and STARS, Wallace's body was found next to the train tracks near Coulterville Road around 11:00pm Sunday night.

The investigators found the operators of the train were unaware that the train had struck the child. The HCSO says that weather conditions at the time made the search extremely difficult with heavy rain, fog along with the rural, unlit area.

A missing 9-year-old boy with Autism was found dead along railroad tracks near Coulterville Road Sunday night.

Timothy Wallace was reported missing from his family's Leggett Road home in Sale Creek around 10 p.m. Sunday.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Department Spokeswoman Janice Atkinson said he was found less than a mile away from his home around 11 p.m.

Thc child, who is non-verbal, left his home wearing no shoes and his family didn't know which direction he went.

"Its a very sad situation," said Atkinson. "I feel for the parents and I feel for the emergency responders who've been out looking for the child because you always want a successful end to a search such as this."

The Sale Creek Fire Department, deputies and Hamilton County Special Tactics and Rescue Services combed the area during the search.

The sheriff's office has not yet released a cause of death.