Family of autistic boy grateful to hundreds who helped locate him
A young boy with autism is safe at home tonight with a grateful family. 12-year-old Matthew Hopkins was reported missing from Murray County, just after 4:00 pm yesterday.
Janice Steelman told Channel 3 that's when her worst nightmare became a reality.
"Physically, I was just sick," she recalled.
She says if it weren't for two boys who were in the right place at the right time and an entire community that stepped in to help, things could've ended differently.
"The outcome of that could've been, had they not found them when they did, you know, it would've been bad," she said.
Family members told Channel 3 the boy, who often played outside, wandered off after disappointing news that he wouldn't be seeing his grandfather--who'd been out of town for two weeks.
"They said, 'Matt's missing. You need to get down here. We can't find him', which sends horror straight through you because Matt is non-verbal. He has autism," Steelman said.
More than 200 volunteers from Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama stepped in to help, scouring the area.
"This officer told my daughter (after) she said, 'How long will you search?' He said, we don't leave 'till we find him," Steelman explained.
That was up until what Steelman calls a miracle happened, hours later when Matthew was found hanging onto branches off an embankment.
"(He) was holding onto a root or a branch, which I firmly feel, was the hand of God," Steelman said.
"It was just a miracle that we located the young man prior to it getting any later in the night, any colder," Major Jimmy Davenport told Channel 3.
Now that he's home safe, Steelman and her family are just grateful for the entire community that came together to help.
"We love each other here in this county, people ca