The body of a 3-year-old boy who disappeared outside a home near here was found in a septic tank late Friday, less than 10 feet from where he was reported missing two days earlier, Flathead County Sheriff Mike Meehan said Saturday.

An autopsy performed in Missoula showed Loic J.M. Rogers drowned, Meehan said.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed boy was reported missing Wednesday night, and an Amber Alert was issued Thursday. The boy's father, Mark Rogers, told police he took Loic out to his car outside a friend's home and told the boy to get in, before going back into the house for Loic's sister.

Mark Rogers "said he was inside only for a minute," Meehan said Friday. When he came back outside, the boy was gone. The father said he searched for about 20 minutes before calling law enforcement.

Authorities said Saturday they had looked in the septic tank during search efforts, but did not see anything. They found the boy's body after draining the tank, Meehan said.

The manhole-sized lid to the septic tank was closed. Meehan declined to characterize the boy's death as a murder, but said investigators do not believe he could have climbed into the tank and put the lid back on.

"This is a tragedy," Meehan said Saturday. "This is truly a tragedy. I have three sons myself and believe me I was out there last night and I can attest to the fact that there was about 20 agents and deputies out there and there wasn't a dry eye in the group."

Meehan said it would likely take four to five days to complete the investigation.

In an interview with The (Kalispell) Daily Inter Lake, Ariel Rogers confirmed Friday that she and her husband are divorcing and are involved in a custody battle for their three children. Mark Rogers was given temporary custody during their separation.

"I want the kids and so does he," Ariel Rogers said Friday. "We love our children. (Mark) would never do anything to hurt our children."

Ariel Rogers, who is expecting her fourth child, was hospitalized so doctors could monitor her after she learned of her son's death.

"I want to know that my other two children are safe in that man's care," she said in a tearful interview with KAJ-TV Saturday. "He was supposed to be looking after him, he was supposed to be safe there, and he wasn't."

A phone message left at a listing for Mark and Ariel Rogers Saturday was returned by his sister, Sara Kavanagh, who declined to comment.

Calls related to the boy's disappearance swamped the sheriff's office Thursday and Friday, and hundreds of area residents joined authorities in an extensive search that involved snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, search dogs and a helicopter.