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Shoe print found in search for autistic boy lost in forest

September 13, 2011 |  1:09 pm

Rescuers spread out across the San Bernardino National Forest on Tuesday morning in a frantic search for an autistic 8-year-old boy who ran away from his elementary school into the forest.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Lt. Rick Ells told KTLA News that searchers found what they believed to be a shoe print in the forest. More than 60 deputies and California Highway Patrol officers are looking for the boy, and a helicopter is in the air, Ellis told the station.

It's possible the boy might have found shelter in one of the cabins that dot the area, but there have been no reports from residents.

Officials saw Joshua Robb running away from Grandview Elementary School in the Lake Arrowhead area Monday morning, apparently after squeezing through a fence.

Staff members chased Joshua, who is 4-feet-6 and about 75 pounds, but couldn’t catch him before he ran into a nearby forest.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies responded within minutes of receiving a call that a boy was missing from the school, said Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the agency.

“This kind of behavior where he runs off is typical,” she said, while adding that Joshua had never fled into the forest before or been gone long enough to merit a search by law enforcement.

Complicating the search is the fact that Joshua suffers from autism and is afraid of loud sounds, Bachman said.

“Loud noises or loud voices could be disturbing to him," she said. "Unfortunately, that's really the only way to search for him.”

Another factor is inclement weather: The National Weather service predicted thunderstorms in the Lake Arrowhead area Tuesday, with winds up to 20 mph.

Joshua had recently been taken from his family and placed into protective custody, his father told television crews.

Ronnie Robb speculated his son ran from the school to return to his parents, who recently lost their home in foreclosure.

Joshua has brown hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a tan and gray shirt, black shorts and gray sandals.

Anyone with information is asked to call the department’s Twin Peaks station at (909) 336-0600 or (909) 387-8313.


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-- Kurt Streeter