CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Police in Virginia have confirmed they found the body of a missing 3-year-old boy after he wandered off into a marshy waterway and drowned.
Chesapeake police confirmed the child’s body was recovered in a marsh near the 2500 block of Canal Drive, which is near his home, shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday. Later in the day, police confirmed the cause of death is drowning.
Three-year-old Cameron Thomas went missing from his home in the 2500 block of Gilmerton Road around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday. It is believed he may have climbed out of a window. The boy was home with his dad and two sisters, and his mom was at the store.
His family said Cameron had autism and did not speak.
Cameron’s father, Cody Thomas, spoke with WAVY News’ Liz Palka on Wednesday night.
“He was something special,” said Thomas. “He meant the world to me.”
Thomas said despite his son’s disability, he was still gifted. “He explored, he was curious,” said Thomas. “He wanted to know how everything worked.”
Thomas, who was joined by his sister Tiffany during the Wednesday evening interview, said it was that curiosity that most likely led Cameron to escape from his home on Tuesday night.
Family members said a Domino’s delivery driver last spotted Cameron around 7 p.m. Tuesday at the 7-Eleven convenience store on George Washington Highway. He had on a green and brown shirt with a missing shoe. He lost it earlier in the day playing at a park nearby.
The family said the delivery driver tried to ask the young boy about his parents, but because Cameron had issues with speaking, he couldn’t properly communicate with the driver.
Last night, once the news spread on social media about Cameron’s disappearance, the community rallied together in large numbers to help search for him. They searched all over Deep Creek, going home to home, looking in wooded areas and even searching in the marshy waterway, where search teams would later find Cameron dead.
“It’s just sad,” said resident Lisa McClanahan.
McClanahan was one of the hundreds who roamed the streets Tuesday night looking for the young boy.
Police with help from the community searched high and low. They peered into cars and examined trash cans. The hope was that the young boy with autism was simply hiding. He wasn’t.
“We seen the sheets go up and I said they are fixing to pull the little boy’s body out of water,” McClan said. “Sure enough you couldn’t see the body, but you could see people and you could see they had something. We just kind of stood there and cried.”
“I just can’t think about what this family is feeling,” McClanahan added.
Tuesday night, Alicia Cleveland also spent several hours searching for Cameron. She told WAVY.com she’s heartbroken and wishes she could have done more to find him alive. She said her focus now is helping Cameron’s family in this time of need.
“I just feel bad for the family. They shouldn’t have to go through that and that’s terrible,” Cleveland said. “Right now, I think just trying to help the family out in any way we can whether it’s funding, prayers, anything can help.”
Family members say Cameron attended school at G.A. Treakle Elementary School. The school has grief counselors assisting with the loss of Cameron.
As Thomas and Cameron’s mother, Rachel, figure out how they are going to get through the next days, weeks, and months, he said the support of the community has made the tragedy easier to face.
“This is a person’s worst nightmare,” said Thomas. “This is not something I can put into words for anyone. So the fact that there are so many people with my family’s thoughts and prayers on their mind right now, it really helps pick you up that much more.”
Police say the investigation is ongoing and there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding this case at this time.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with Cameron’s funeral costs. If you would like to donate, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/cameronthomas