By Monica Land
TOMNOLEN – Sheriff Tim Mitchell confirmed that the toddler more than 200 volunteers were searching for in Webster County Sunday evening was found in a pond behind his grandparents’ home Monday morning.
Two-year-old Kye Mitchell was pronounced dead at the scene after firefighters and a search team, along with rescuers from Calhoun County, made the grim discovery around 9 a.m.
The search for Kye began about 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, when his family noticed he was missing from their front yard.
Seth Mitchell, Tomnolen’s fire chief and Kye’s cousin, said Kye was playing alone in the yard when his family noticed he was gone.
“[Kye’s] daddy was up here visiting his parents,” Seth said. “This was the grandparents’ house and Kye was alone. There were no other children outside with him.”
A search team was organized and Sheriff Mitchell, Seth’s father, said they immediately focused on a pond behind the grandparent’s home.
“That’s just something you do,” Sheriff Mitchell said. “When you have water – you search all water. And if one doesn’t turn up anything, you keep on and you search another…all the watersheds, all the creeks, the slews, everything. Because a 2-year-old can drown in anything.”
Sheriff Mitchell said they drained the first pond Sunday night after a highway patrol helicopter infrared signal picked up something in the water.
“It gave us a reading,” he said. “It gave us a heat reading. So we drained it and we were waist deep in mud, but we didn’t find anything in it.”
The sheriff said they left that area and went to another pond that was about 400 to 500 yards.
“What’s so bad about it is that we had searched that pond,” Sheriff Mitchell said. “That pond and the pond right behind the house. And of course we concentrated on the closest one to the house and it didn’t work out. But we searched this one several times using the infrared to try to get a reading out of it and we didn‘t.”
Sheriff Mitchell said after his body was recovered, an autopsy was performed on Kye on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Sheriff Mitchell said there were no indications of foul play and even though he did not have the official report, Kye’s death will likely be ruled a drowning.
“It’s pitiful,” Sheriff Mitchell said – both he and his son, Seth – emotionally and physically drained from the ordeal which hits very close to home for them. But in spite of the outcome, Sheriff Mitchell said he still owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the community.
“I can’t tell you how thankful I am for all the people that came out,” he said. “It would take a whole page for me to thank all the volunteers and law enforcement agencies that came out to help. And I’m asking everyone to please, keep that family in their prayers.”
Sheriff Mitchell said funeral arrangements for Kye have not been made, but they will be handled by Oliver Funeral Home in Winona.