A family is sighing in relief after a nerve-wrecking weekend.
Sergio Zepeda, a 6-year-old autistic boy, walked away from his family’s San Jose home Saturday morning while watching television. When his mother and her boyfriend realized he was gone, they found the garage door open, but he was nowhere to be found, according to reports.
While police searched for nearly 24 hours in and around his neighborhood, the boy managed to wander into a graffiti-marred homeless camp nearly a mile from his home early Sunday. He had shed his clothes and diaper along the way.
Jose Salmeron, the man who found Zepeda, told the San Jose Mercury News that he shined his flashlight outside his tent and found the naked, shivering little boy.
“I though honestly it was an (extraterrestrial) or something, a skinny little figure,” Salmeron, 32, said. “But when I looked a little closer, it was a little boy.”
He said he gave him a blanket, a sweater, a doughnut and some water while they waited for police to arrive. According to Salmeron, Zepeda kept walking in circles and did not talk.
"It's a happy ending," said San Jose police officer and spokesman Albert Morales as quoted by the Mercury News. "We're tremendously fortunate that he was safely found. Here's a 6-year-old out in the elements, and he trekked a pretty good distance. We're all just very happy that it ended the way it did."
Lt. Jason Herr told KTVU-TV the homeless camp is about a four-mile drive from Zepeda’s home, but less than a mile when traveling over Communications Hill.
“It took us a while to locate this location, but one of the homeless folks came from the encampment and flagged us down on the roadway,” Herr said.
Police do not suspect any foul play in Zepeda’s disappearance and they are considering nominating Salmeron for a Good Samaritan award.
But Salmeron does not want to be called a hero, he told the press.
“When you see a helpless kid like that, you are supposed to do the right thing and just call the cops right away,” he told the Mercury News. “Thank God he didn’t get hit by a train, or fall into the water.”