Image courtesy Kirk Anderson
CENTURIA, Wis. - Law enforcement officials are expected to release more details late Thursday morning, hours after a police officer discovered the body of a two-year-old boy who had been reported missing near the town of Centuria.
Polk County Sheriff Pete Johnson informed media outlets in an email late Wednesday night that the body of Isaiah Theis had been found after more than 24 hours of frantic searching.
The search for young Isaiah started Tuesday evening after he was discovered missing from his family's rural farmstead.
On Wednesday, crews retraced the original two square miles they had covered previously over and over. Fresh leaders and fresh teams of volunteers were brought in as everyone battled tough terrain and hot and humid conditions. Officials estimate more than 450 people, both friends of the family and complete strangers, poured into Centuria in hopes of finding the little boy alive.
"They're still motivated, it's a two-year-old; nobody likes to see that, it gives everybody a little extra reason to continue. But it's hot and it does drain and after several hours in this heat, I can certainly see myself starting to fail a little bit," Polk Co. Sheriff Peter Johnson told media members, before the Pierce and St. Croix County Sheriffs took over for him.
Isaiah's parents say they last saw him playing with his seven year old brother in the house. Searches scanned about a two mile area multiple times, focusing mostly on 40 acres around the house.
Officials also say they searched a nearby pond and swamp.
Several family members of Isaiah's showed up to help search, including the boy's grandfather, who is from White Bear Lake. His daughter is the boy's mother. He describes his grandson like many 2-year olds: active, likes to run around. He says at times Isaiah's 7-year old brother looks after him but doesn't know if that was the case here. He says family members are definitely having a difficult time with this.
Isaiah was last seen Tuesday night around 7:30. Kirk Anderson, a family friend who lives a mile away, joined the search a half an hour later. "We started searching the back of the house," he explained. "So I put it on Facebook, just asking for volunteers, and from there it just exploded," he told KARE 11, estimating more than 100 people joined him and searched until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. the next morning.
"I never thought it would take this long. I thought we would come and it would be maybe an hour and we could go home. So this is getting scary," he said joining search crews the next morning.
Anderson says his two-year-old often plays with Isaiah. "He's a little guy and he's just a spit fire of a character. He's very active," he explained. Sheriff Peterson told the media that he has a "proclivity to wander."
"Just being a mom, my heart's breaking for this little guy. We've got to find him," Sherri Johnson, a mother from Centuria, said. She took two search shifts on Wednesday morning despite the brutally hot temps. "It's emotional," she noted. She had searched both farm fields and wooded areas.
The sheriff did say there are also two ponds within the two square mile search area, and he had planned to have teams enter them late Wednesday afternoon to assess their depth.
As the hours dragged on, the heat was taking its physical toll, but it did not change how people were feeling. They remained hopeful. "We're not going to give up," Sheriff Peterson said before noting a missing man a few years ago was found alive after a week-long search.
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