SHERIFF: Up to a thousand acres searched so far for missing three-year-old

CRAVEN COUNTY, NC (WITN) - The Craven County sheriff says they have shifted efforts to trained search teams for Casey Hathaway, turning away most volunteers because of weather conditions.

The three-year-old boy has now been missing for more than three days.

He was last seen around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday when the toddler was outside with two other young children. His great-grandmother was inside the house at the time.

Sheriff Chip Hughes says they have so far covered up to a thousand acres of heavily wooded area that also has sinkholes and several bodies of water. The sheriff said today alone they have searched about 220 acres.

More than 100 professional searchers and seven search and rescue teams are taking part in the effort, including those from Lenoir, Johnston, and Pender counties.

Hughes said they also have four drones in the air and continuing to use search dogs from the SBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The family continues to be cooperative, according to Hughes.

The sheriff said they have reached out already to most everyone who lives in the area, but says if you live nearby and have not been contacted to please call their 24-hour tip line at 252-636-6703.

Editor's Note: At first, authorities said the child's grandmother was inside the home. Today they clarified that to say it was the great-grandmother.


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Rain today hampered the volunteer search for Casey Hathaway, while the FBI says authorities will give have another news conference to update the media at 4:00 p.m.

That news conference can be seen live on WITN-TV and on witn.com.

The FBI says members of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are in Craven County helping with the search.

This is the third day of searching for the missing three-year-old, who was last seen Tuesday around 1:45 p.m. The toddler was outside playing with two other young children while his grandmother was inside the Toler Road home.

The other children went back inside, while Casey stayed outside and authorities believe he wandered into the dense woods behind the home.

The efforts today so far has been limited to professional searchers because of the heavy rain and strong winds. Volunteers are being kept at a nearby church if weather conditions improve.


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Organizers say volunteers are still welcome in the search for missing 3-year-old Casey Hathaway, but whether they're utilized throughout the day may depend on the weather.

Heavy rain is covering Eastern Carolina including much of Craven County this morning. Meteorologist Jim Howard says the heavy showers should move out by 10 a.m. with lingering showers in the area until around 1 p.m.

The volunteer efforts resumed around 8 a.m. Thursday after professionally-trained searchers continued looking for Casey through Wednesday night.

Organizers say volunteers won't be utilized if there are safety concerns due to weather or other factors. So far, volunteers have only been used during daylight hours.

The boy was last seen just before 2 p.m. Tuesday from a home along Toler Rd. in Ernul.

Stay with WITN as we continue following the search for Casey Hathaway. Updates will be posted throughout the day.


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A volunteer search for three-year-old Casey Hathaway will resume at 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

The FBI says hundreds of volunteers were sent home for the night due to safety concerns while professionally trained searchers continue to work overnight.

Volunteers and law enforcement have been searching through rough terrain around the home on Toler Road in Ernul where Casey was last seen. They were also wading through ponds while a dive team was on standby.

Emergency Services Director Stanley Kite says they are using every possible resource, including helicopters, airplanes, drones and K-9s.

Deputies say the toddler was playing outside with two other children while his grandmother was inside the home on Tuesday.

The two other children reportedly went inside and left Hathaway by himself. He's believed to have wandered off into the woods during that time.

Volunteers interested in helping in the search should meet at at New Haven Church Activity Center located at 2755 Aurora Road in Ernul Thursday morning.

Anyone living near Toler Road should also check their properties for any signs of Hathaway.

The three-year-old is white with blonde hair and brown eyes. He weighs 25 pounds and is 28 inches tall. If you see him or have information to help officials locate him, call the tip line at 252-636-6703 or the Craven County Sheriff's Office at 252-633-0498.



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The Craven County sheriff says the disappearance of Casey Hathaway remains a missing child search.

The three-year-old was last seen around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday behind a home on Toler Road. The toddler was with two other children and deputies say his grandmother was inside the home at the time.

Sheriff Chip Hughes says the two older children, both about 5, went back inside, leaving Casey by himself.

The sheriff told the media this afternoon that the family has been extremely cooperative and says they want lawmen to bring their son home to them.

Hundreds of volunteers on Wednesday search thick woods and brush near the home. They also were wading through ponds and had a dive team on standby, if needed.

Emergency Services Director Stanley Kite says the area contains difficult terrain for those volunteers. He said they are using every possible resource, including helicopters, airplanes, drones and K-9s.

Kite said the search area for the child is around a mile, cut into small grids that volunteers continue to search..


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Authorities have scheduled a late afternoon news conference to update the media on the search for Casey Hathaway.

State and federal law enforcement agencies are now assisting the Craven County Sheriff's Office in the search for the missing three-year-old.

Hathaway has been missing now for more than 24 hours. WITN Chief Meteorologist Matt Engelbrecht says it was below freezing for 11 of those hours, with a low of 24.4° at 1:30 a.m.

Over 200 volunteers joined in the search Wednesday on Toler Road in Ernul.

Hathaway was reported missing yesterday afternoon and was last seen around 1:45 p.m. after authorities say a grandmother was watching him and two other children.

Sheriff Chip Hughes told WITN this morning that they haven't ruled out any possibilities in the child's disappearance, including abduction or kidnapping.

He said the search is now being handled by Craven County Emergency Services, while deputies, the SBI, the FBI, NCIS, and other agencies are staged at the New Bern Emergency Operations Center.

An FBI spokeswoman confirmed that their agents are in Craven County. Shelley Lynch said right now there's no reason to believe that the toddler just didn't walk away and become lost, but she said as trained investigators they want to offer their help.

District Attorney Scott Thomas was at the scene this afternoon, seen speaking to former D.A. David McFadden, who now is a major with the sheriff's office.

The sheriff said they have a dive team on standby if needed, and today they had people in knee to waist deep water feeling out nearby ponds.

A 5:00 p.m. news conference is scheduled to update the media on the search for the toddler. WITN will carry that news conference live when it happens.

If you have information, please call the Craven County Sheriff's Office at (252) 633-0498 or the SBI at (919) 662-4500.


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Officials are now asking Craven County residents to check their storage sheds, cars and property for three-year-old Casey Hathaway.

Hathaway was reported missing Tuesday afternoon. Authorities say a grandmother was watching Hathaway and two other young children when Hathaway went missing.

The boy apparently went into thick woods behind the home and was last seen around 1:45 p.m. Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes says they weren't notified until about 45 minutes later.

Multiple law enforcement agencies in Craven County were still searching the area as of 2 a.m., according to Craven County Communications.

Hundreds of volunteers have also joined in the search.

Hathaway is described as a white boy with blonde hair and brown eyes. He's about 2'3" and 25 pounds.

If you have information, please call the Craven County Sheriff's Office at (252) 633-0498 or the SBI at (919) 662-4500.



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Multiple law enforcement agencies in Craven County, and hundreds of volunteers, continue searching for a toddler who has now been missing since 2:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes identifies the toddler as Casey Hathaway, who just turned three last Wednesday.

Craven County authorities set up a command post on Toler Road in Ernul as they continue to look for the three-year-old boy.

Sheriff Chip Hughes says a grandmother was watching three young children and two of them came back inside. He said the three-year-old decided to stay outside.

The boy apparently went back into thick woods behind the home and was last seen around 1:45 p.m. The sheriff says they weren't notified until about 45 minutes later.

Hughes says the toddler wasn't adequately dressed for temperatures in the mid-30 and there is a concern since there are sinkholes and deep water ditches in the area.

The sheriff said time is becoming an issue and they wanted to find the child before dark. Temperatures tonight are expected to dip below 30°.

In addition to the entire staff of the sheriff's office, state troopers and first responders helped with the search. A Highway Patrol helicopter with a heat-seeking camera and a Marine Fisheries airplane was brought in, as well.