Body of missing autistic boy found in Pennsylvania

Jan 2, 2016 9:40 PM by CBS News

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Authorities in Pennsylvania announced Saturday that the body of a missing 5-year-old autistic boy has been recovered after he went missing during a New Year's Eve party.

Police said at a press conference Saturday evening the body of Jayliel Vega Batista was recovered in a canal in Allentown, CBS Philadelphia station KYW reported.

Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim says an autopsy Monday will help determine when he entered the water.

"Preliminarily, this is being considered a tragic accident," Allentown police Chief Keith Morris said.

Grim couldn't say how the boy died, or whether he was likely still alive when he entered the water.

Jayliel was playing with a toy with some other children when he left his great aunt's home at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, said his 16-year-old sister, Tayritza Molina. He left barefoot and without a coat, according to police.

Search dogs tracked the boy's scent to the canal, where the tablet Jayliel had been playing with was found early Saturday afternoon. That prompted police to call in divers who found the boy's body about eight feet from shore, in six feet of water.

"At this point, we don't believe there was any foul play involved," Morris said. But police were continuing their investigation in hopes of pinpointing where, how and why the boy may have entered the water.

The chief couldn't immediately say whether anyone might face charges because the boy wandered away, though authorities took care to note they were attempting to assist the boy's grieving family. They asked reporters and the public to respect the family's privacy, and said a local funeral director has offered to pay for the boy's burial.

The residents of Allentown, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, joined the search for the boy without being asked. Police had to ask some volunteers to stop because there were so many, instead urging residents to search their properties, including parked cars and any places the boy might be hiding or seeking refuge from the cold.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski commended the volunteers and others who tried in vain to find the boy.

"This is a sad day in the conclusion of our search," the mayor said. "This is a sad day in our city."

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Most Popular