Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin: Body of missing autistic boy , Benji Heil, recovered in Wisconsin

Benji Heil, age 7

Associated Press

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis.— The discovery of a 7-year-old autistic boy's body in a pond not far from his home Tuesday ended a community search effort that drew hundreds of volunteers each day since he disappeared last week.

Even those who weren't in on the organized search for Benjamin "Benjy'' Heil stayed on the lookout for him since he vanished Thursday, said town of Nekoosa resident Darcy Peckham, 33.

"It's a tragedy that this whole community is going to have a hard time getting through,'' said the mother of six. "I've got children of my own that age, and it just makes you realize how close that family is. You realize that, wow, in a split second it can all be gone.''

Wood County sheriff's Lt. Dave Laude said the boy was found about 11 a.m. in a pond adjacent to Ten Mile Creek less than a quarter mile from his town of Saratoga home. A search dog led to the discovery, he said.

Wood County Coroner Garry Kronstedt said an autopsy was scheduled Thursday in Portage.

The boy had been playing in the basement when his family realized Thursday evening that he was gone and called authorities.

Hundreds of people turned out each day to look for the boy.