By GENARO C. ARMAS
Associated Press Writer
WATER STREET, Pa. (AP) — A 20-month-old boy who wandered away from his foster parents’ rural home was found in a cornfield Monday with a few scratches on his face but otherwise unharmed after spending a freezing night outdoors.
Donavin Miller was found about 1:40 p.m. Monday less than a mile from his home in Water Street, a tiny village southwest of State College. He had been missing since about 5:30 p.m. Sunday when his foster mother, Naomi Martin, saw that he was no longer playing outside.
The boy was dressed in a heavy denim jacket, a flannel shirt and sweat pants, and rescuers said temperatures overnight Monday had dipped into the 20s.
Ken Doyle, a Geeseytown volunteer firefighter stationed at a traffic roadblock, heard the toddler crying Monday but couldn’t see him right away, so he called for more help.
They found him five minutes later, three rows of corn from the road, after he stood up in the field, cried and raised his arms in front of him, said searcher John Smith, of Osceola Mills.
“He looked like he wanted to be picked up. He looked like he wanted to go home,” said Smith, one of about 400 rescuers. “He looks like anyone would look like if they spent the night in a cornfield, scared, cold. He was just happy to see us.”
The call into the command post elicited a big cheer that could easily be heard in this rural area of west-central Pennsylvania, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. Donavin was taken to Tyrone Hospital as a precaution.
“I didn’t know what to expect, where he could be, how it could have happened in such a short period of time that he got away so far,” said David Martin, brother of Donavin’s foster father, 34-year-old Luke Martin. David Martin had been searching woods when he got the news.
“I was really relieved that he was found,” said Michael Burkholder, brother of Luke Martin’s 33-year-old wife, Naomi. “It’s a blessing.”
Donavin and his 4-year-old brother live with their foster parents on a cleared plot of land with several out buildings. The boys were placed with the family in March through The Bair Foundation, a Christian nonprofit foster care organization.
There was no sign of other vehicles or people in the area at the time the boy disappeared, Naomi Martin said. State police said there were no signs of any suspicious activity.
Rescue teams searched by helicopter and horseback to navigate more difficult terrain, which included steep hills covered with leaves that had fallen off trees. Most other groups formed lines in fields and woods to search on foot.
Police also used a bloodhound that Naomi Martin said was able to pick up the boy’s scent.
“They had (the scent) at times, but then they lost it,” she said before the boy was found.
Police called off the search about 1:30 a.m. Monday, but resumed at daybreak. David Martin said family members never stopped their search overnight.
Naomi Martin said she and her husband have been foster parents to seven children in the past three years and have an 11-year-old son.
Friends and relatives of the Martins, many of them children, ran from the couple’s home, down a rural road to the rescue command post when they heard the news that Donavin was found, smiles on each of their faces.
As rescuers left the village, they were greeted by residents handing out hamburgers and holding a handwritten sign on a white bedsheet that read “Thank you, all.”
Associated Press Writer Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
By GENARO C. ARMAS