Family Of Missing Palm Coast Teen Grateful He’s Alive

By on September 26, 2018 in WNDB News

Bunnell, FL – The family of a Palm Coast teenager with special needs says they’re “so grateful to have him back” after four days of uncertainty.

In a statement released by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office during a press conference earlier today (September 26th), Rickey Wheeler’s mother and father say their 17-year-old son is “eating as much as he can get his hands on” after he went missing around Town Center.

“Thank you to everyone that participated in the search for our son,” said Wheeler’s parents in that statement. “Thank you to Sheriff Rick Staly and all of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the entire community.”

Wheeler – who suffers from muscular dystrophy and has diminished mental capacity – is now getting treatment at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, according to his parents.

FCSO Chief Paul Bovino says it’s not clear at this point exactly how Wheeler got lost in the wooded areas of Town Center since detectives haven’t really asked him what happened, preferring instead to give him his space as he recovers. He did note, though, that Wheeler had also gone missing over the summer and was also tracked down then by FCSO near Belle Terre Parkway.

According to the incident report, Wheeler’s mother told FCSO her son had just been released from the hospital following a voluntary mental evaluation but also said that she didn’t hear him make any statements about wanting to harm himself or anyone else.

The report noted that Wheeler left his residence at Madison Green Apartments without his mother being aware of it around 4 p.m. Friday (September 21st) and that he didn’t have access to a vehicle or a cell phone. She called FCSO around an hour later after searching the apartment complex unsuccessfully.

After striking out on its search efforts over the weekend – which included emergency messages sent to residents, a statewide Amber Alert and air assistance from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office – FCSO ramped up on Tuesday, using social media to attract over 100 volunteers to do an extensive search on foot around Town Center.

Two of those volunteers – Dawn and Anthony Butrym (photo above article) – found clothing which was tied to Wheeler not far from City Hall around an hour into the search, apparently shed by him while wandering around the area.

“I think our involvement in this was divine intervention,” Anthony noted. “We were the first two to register for this.”

From there, Putnam – a bloodhound with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office – took around 20 to 25 minutes to track Wheeler down in the woods near the Publix on Belle Terre, who by that point was dehydrated and covered in bug bites.

“Rickey’s alive,” Bovino added. “Everybody’s pretty much in shock. The command bus goes into a little bit of jubilation.”

According to Bovino, there was a real concern at that point that Wheeler could suffer some sort of serious medical episode if he wasn’t found quickly, especially since he wasn’t on his medication.

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