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Hayden Wilcox, 5, is now safe after he was reported missing in the 22300 block of County Road 251 near Arp on Wednesday night.

The Smith County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to actively investigate after a 5-year-old child, who is now safe, was missing for over 12 hours in the Arp area.

Law enforcement reported Hayden Wilcox was missing just after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 2300 block of County Road 251 near Arp. Following hours of searching, he was found safe and unharmed around 8 a.m. Thursday.

Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Larry Christian said the child was found about a mile from his residence.

Possible charges for the boy’s guardians are unknown at this time. Christian said in cases of child neglect and endangerment, investigators have to prove there was intent behind the act or if it was done carelessly.

“We’re still in the process of figuring out what we’ve got,” he said. “We’ve got to cover all those bases. We’ve got to see who’s involved when it comes to the culpability of this.”

He noted that these types of investigations are not black and white.

The Texas Department of Public Safety brought a bloodhound and helicopter to aid in the search. Drones were also used as the officers expanded their search efforts, he said.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice K-9 Unit was on location for several hours, and members of the International Air Land Emergency Resource Team Academy arrived at 6:30 a.m. Thursday to conduct the search. The academy is a Christian discipleship and service program that trains young men to meet needs in times of crisis.

“We had quite a few resources out there last night,” Christian said.

Christian said EMS determined Wilcox was not hypothermic. He is now in a safe environment.

“It’s by the grace of God, we were able to save him,” Christian said.

Other agencies that assisted the sheriff’s office include Smith County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, Arp Police Department, Troup Police Department, DPS troopers, Overton Police Department as well as area fire departments.


Multimedia Journalist

I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.