Dexter Statesman
The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman.

Missing Butler County boy found dead

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

QULIN, Mo. -- Prayers for a miracle ended Monday for the family of 5-year-old Devonte Dye when rescue workers found the missing boy's body shortly before 10 a.m. in a slough near his grandparents' Qulin home.

The old St. Francis River channel sits about 50 feet behind Devonte's grandparents' Highway 53 home, where the boy was last seen playing in the yard Sunday afternoon, Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs said.

"In talking with the (Butler County) coroner, this appears to just be a tragic accident that happened relatively quickly," said Dobbs. "He was likely in the water before anybody knew he was missing. In talking with the coroner, it appears he had been dead since yesterday."

Three dog teams led searchers Sunday afternoon to what looked like a skid mark down the bank of the slough, where water is as deep as the St. Francis River, Dobbs said. Emergency responders searched the slough until it became too dark and dangerous to continue. The search was hindered by the amount of debris in the channel.

Members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol water patrol division were wading in the water again by 8:30 a.m. The water was too murky to use a dive team, Dobbs said.

While the search of the slough was happening, members of Southeast Missouri Search and Rescue organized volunteers to search the nearby fields in the hopes Devonte would still be found alive.

Devonte was autistic, searchers were told shortly after sunrise Monday, when his grandfather spoke to volunteers. For that reason, he likely wouldn't respond to his name. He might move away from rescuers.

Devonte's mother and other family members had assisted with the search through the night, while his father, a military member stationed in Colorado, was expected to arrive Monday.

His grandfather advised the best way to coax Devonte out would be to call out to the boy that it was time to go home, it was time to go eat. Devonte likely wouldn't speak up even if someone was very close to him, he said.

Devonte loved to climb monkey bars, his grandfather told organizers, hoping the boy might have climbed on a piece of farm equipment and stayed hidden there through the night.

Search teams of four and five were led by trained search members, with plans to work in a tight grid pattern. They were assigned to search the fields row by row. Farmers had told the family not to worry about trampling crops, to do whatever they needed to find the boy.

As many as 200 people were estimated to have helped search Sunday.

"We walked through section by section, from the bridge north," said Karon Campbell, a first responder with the Qulin Fire Department.

The fire department concentrated its early efforts Sunday on staging personnel, switching to recovery by afternoon, chief Zane Clark said Monday.

Fire department trucks were used Sunday to pump a pond next to the grandparents' home. Search and rescue dogs and a plane with an infrared camera also worked in the area.

"I want to thank everyone for coming out. A lot of people really wanted to help out. It makes me really proud to see our community come together," Clark said.

Everyone needs to help in situations like this, said volunteer Myesha Prater, a friend of the boy's father. Prater said Devonte's father left Colorado early Sunday evening to make the 14-hour drive back to Missouri.

The Butler County Sheriff's Department, Qulin Fire Department, the Qulin marshal, Poplar Bluff Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Southeast Missouri Search and Rescue and Poplar Bluff Fire Department assisted with the search.

"We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of the community and volunteers who donated things," Dobbs said.