Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

November 8, 2012

Missing teen found after extensive search by volunteers, first responders

MEADS — When Josh Thompson woke up Thursday morning there was an indescribable, peculiar weight on his heart. He wasn’t sure why he felt this way.

He turned on the evening newscast to see Geoffrey “Braiden” Reffitt, an autistic 14-year-old, wandered away from his home around 7:48 a.m. after he got upset and darted into the woods.

Thompson, a father to two young children, knew he must search for a stray boy.

“As a parent, I don’t know how I’d feel if that was my child out there lost in the cold.”

Thompson once worked with troubled kids at Ashland Group Home. On Thursday around 7 p.m. he helped yet another, finding the boy – just wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals in nighttime, quickly-plunging temperatures. Thompson saw the teen hunkered in a ditch line on nearby Hatchery Road. Katie McDowell shared her cell phone so he could call police.

“Something was telling me I had to head out,” said Thompson, warming himself inside the makeshift mobile command center at AAA Storage Center on U.S. 60. His two kids were inside the family’s Toyota Tacoma when he spotted Braiden. His 3-year-old daughter, Leila, thought Braiden was playing hide and seek.

“I never take the back roads, but something told me to. I’m not really religious, but I had my heart set on finding this boy – and it played in my head,” said the 26-year-old Cannonsburg man. “Nothing has ever spoken to me so strongly. It kind of freaks me out.”

Driving by slowly, he saw young Braiden pop up from a culvert. He was cold and afraid to return home, worried his mom would be angry, Thompson said.

“I told him his mommy was gonna give him a big hug when she saw him,” he said, adding the boy told him he heard a helicopter searching for him earlier and hid in fear.

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