ELGIN, S.C. — The only things that protected 22-month-old Tyler Jacobson from the frigid overnight temperatures Friday were a T-shirt, a diaper and his favorite buddy — a mixed Labrador retriever.
"To tell you the truth, that dog is what kept him alive," Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews told The State on Saturday.
The heat from that dog may also be what prevented an infrared-equipped search helicopter from spotting the missing child.
Authorities weren’t told that the child’s best buddy was also missing when the 911 call came in to the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department around 8 p.m. Friday night.
The boy’s mother, Jacklyn Marie Jacobson, and her boyfriend Jose Gloria told investigators that Tyler went missing after leaving the bedroom where they were all watching a movie to get some juice.
The call to authorities about 45 minutes later prompted a massive search of the wooded area radiating out from the home on Ashley Creek Drive in Elgin, S.C. Bloodhounds and about 25 members of area fire and police departments combed the woods while a helicopter ran a tight search pattern overhead.
"The infrared picked up a lot of deer and other animals but no little boy," Matthews said. The chopper flew until the need to refuel and increasing winds forced it to ground around 3 a.m.
The searchers checked a nearby stream, and the above-ground pool in the Jacobsons’ backyard, to no avail.
The search resumed Saturday morning with about 75 police, fire department and civilian volunteers. A man walking down the street alerted some searchers that he thought he heard crying in the woods.
A crying Tyler, and his dog, was found about 200 yards from the road, a quarter-mile from his home. Cold but otherwise, apparently, OK. He was examined by emergency personnel on the scene and taken to a local clinic for evaluation.
The boy’s biological father was flying home from his military assignment in Hawaii on Saturday night. Matthews said the state Department of Social Services had been notified that the living conditions in the boy’s home were "deplorable."