Florida teen missing for days found by police bloodhound, volunteers

Credit: Putnam County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Putnam County Sheriff's Office

A 17-year-old boy who was missing for days was found alive in Palm Coast, Florida, Tuesday evening, and a couple of volunteer searchers and a bloodhound are to thank for it.

WFTV reported that the Flagler County Sheriff's Office said Rickey Wheeler, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, had been missing since Sept. 21 and did not have his medication. Deputies said he left his home last week without a cellphone, medication or a bank card.

Credit: Flagler County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Flagler County Sheriff's Office

Deputies did not start recruiting volunteers to assist in the search until Tuesday. Anthony Butrym and his wife Dawn decided to volunteer their time to help look for Wheeler that morning.

"I think our involvement in this is divine intervention," Anthony Butrym told WFTV. "I found his clothes and then shortly after that, my wife found his shoes in the field sitting next to it."

>> Read more trending news

Authorities were alerted and Putnam County Sheriff's Office handler Sgt. Emmett Merritt and his bloodhound, named Putnam, used the scent from the clothing to find Wheeler about 100 yards away at the end of a dead-end road in a development site.

“He was down in a really deep ditch,” Sgt. Emmett Merritt said.

Merritt said Wheeler seemed relieved when he and the search dog arrived, and petted Putnam.

“Besides being dehydrated, probably hungry and bug bitten, I don’t think he suffered any major medical condition there,” Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Chief Paul Bovino said.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Investigators said Wheeler had disappeared once before, in July, and turned up at a McDonald’s a few hours later.

"I want to thank everyone for their tips, emails and support during this search," Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement Tuesday. "I believe that Rickey Wheeler was found alive because of the massive efforts from our employees, our great community and volunteers and support from our neighboring law enforcement agencies along with our local fire/rescue departments."

The Sheriff’s Office said Wheeler was transported to a local hospital and reunited with his family. He is in stable condition.

About the Author