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New clues in search for 5-year-old boy with autism gives search teams hope

DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) - There are multiple videos inside this story. Click here to watch them from the News 2 app.

The search for a missing 5-year-old boy with autism continued Friday as his parents and the Dickson County community hold onto hope he will be found safe. 

Searchers found three footprints they are investigating as they combed the area for signs of Joseph “Joe Clyde” Daniels. 

A child-size footprint was discovered near the south side of Garner’s Creek, not far from the little boy’s home late Thursday night. 

Dickson County Sheriff Joe Bledsoe said dogs from the Rutherford County K-9 unit were brought in.

They followed a scent, but the trail went cold around 1 a.m. Friday. 

Bledsoe said they are also investigating another possible footprint Friday, but did not reveal where it was found. 

Investigators said many tips and possible evidence is giving search teams hope. 

“I haven’t lost hope. And everyone that’s here working and all the volunteers, that’s what they’re here for. So that we can find him and get him home,” said Bledsoe.

The search has expanded to the north, as far as three miles from the Daniels’ home. Teams spent time Friday revisiting areas they’ve searched before, in case he returns to the same spot. 

Drones were also utilized Friday in the search for Joe Clyde. 

“At this moment, the boots on the ground are much more involved in details because we’re looking for signs as we walk. We’re not only looking for a small 5-year-old boy. We’re looking for clues that something’s tromped down, the grass is laid down,” Bledsoe said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spoke to a witness who said he saw a child walking along the side of the road. He told investigators he thought the child was older and didn’t think to call police. Sheriff Bledsoe said he considers the witness credible.    

The sheriff’s department has people who are staying with the Daniels family.  Sheriff Bledsoe said they are exhausted and anguished. 

News 2 spoke to the boy’s father by phone Friday afternoon. He said he is afraid his son is “lonely, tired, scared and confused.” 

He also told News 2 “Baby Joe,” as the family calls him, has snuck out of the their home before, but it was always during the day and he would always be found nearby. 

The little boy’s parents believe he had seen them unlock their padlocked door and he was able to copy them. They also think he could be looking for his grandfather, who is a truck driver, and is extremely close to. 

The family said they are praying for the best, but are “really scared.” 

Authorities have asked the parents not to help in the search for Joe Clyde because they are afraid it will throw the K-9s off. 

Joe Clyde was last seen at his home on Garner’s Creek Road Tuesday night.  

His parents discovered he was missing when they went to wake him up for school around 5:20 a.m. After searching their home and property for nearly an hour, they called 911 just before 6:30 a.m. to report the boy missing.  

Joe Clyde was last seen wearing pajamas black pajamas with a skeleton design on them.  He is non-verbal. 

He is 4 feet tall and weighs around 65 pounds. He has blonde hair and blue eyes. 

Anyone with information is urged to call the sheriff's dispatch line at 615-446-8041 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.

If you are interested in volunteering over the weekend, search teams will stage at Friendship Baptist Church Saturday morning at 9 a.m.  Volunteers should dress for cold weather. 


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