NORTH CAROLINA (ABC) – The search for the 4-year-old boy missing in North Carolina is over now that investigators found a body they believe to be Raul Gonzalez Johnson.
The FBI said a body was discovered as workers were draining a pond off a road less than one mile from the boy’s home in Laurinburg on Saturday at around 1:45 p.m.
Authorities had said Raul’s grandfather was watching him Wednesday when he lost track of the boy and called police. Raul was last seen by a neighbor walking in Laurinburg, according to ABC affiliate WVEC.
The Scotland County Medical Examiner’s Office must still confirm the identity also have to determine the cause of death, which so far, according to Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey, appears to be accidental.
“We have prayed, but this the outcome everyone feared and it is heartbreaking,” he said during an emotional press conference on Saturday evening.
The sheriff acknowledged this kind of tireless search and unfortunate result was a first for him.
“I have never been involved in this type of search,” he said. “It’s the first type of search of this magnitude in this town.
“We have learned a lot. But I know that we gave it our best.”
Kersey was reduced to tears when he recalled meeting Raul very recently and then bein tasked to lead the effort to try returning the toddler home to his family.
“I would guess it’s abnormal to meet a child and then later you’re looking for him,” he said. “I consider it a blessing to have had that opportunity.”
An overcome Kersey was hit hard by being unable to bring Raul home, once he said they believe they found his corpse.
“Even though it was was for a short moment of time — to meet a little boy and to know I gave my best,” he said, through tears. “To put a passion in me to do all I could to bring him home safe.”
Raul, the sheriff said, adored wildlife around his home and was fond of all his neighbors.
“He visited the people in the neighborhood,” Kersey said. “Everyone was part of that family. It’s just a sad day.”