Family members tell /*Eyewitness News*/ authorities found the child overseas with relatives.
Authorities had issued an Amber Alert Sunday afternoon and hundreds of law enforcement officers launched a search that included a helicopter. About 200 people attended a candlelight vigil Monday night before the search was called off Tuesday.
Federal and state authorities are investigating the report that first came from a woman who called 911 and said her son disappeared while she was loading her car at the market.
"There's a lot of things that aren't adding up," Smithfield Police Chief Steve Gillikin said. "It was a made-up story. The kid wasn't there, had never been there. The story she (the caller) gave to law enforcement just wasn't true, the woman representing herself as the mother."
Authorities were questioning the boy's mother, Rosnah Hassan Thomason of Four Oaks, but refused to provide details of the investigation, including whether Thomason was the woman who called 911.
Eyewitness News tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't answer the door.
Gillikin did say the boy's name isn't Siraj Munir Davenport, as police originally reported.
Gillikin said state and federal authorities are in control of the case. The FBI refused to comment.
The chief said he believed there was criminal activity involved and he hoped charges would be brought if the investigation confirms it.
False reports can desensitize the public to disappearance cases, he said.
"It's like anything else," he said. "You hear these things and you hear these things. A certain percent of the population sees them and looks right past them and thinks it's not worth their time."
"I was disappointed but our prayers have been answered," friend Susan Barbour.
The child's former preschool teachers are trying to make sense of the tall tale his mother told police.
Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the police did the right thing. He hopes the next time an Amber Alert is issued that the authorities and the public didn't judge it against the Smithfield case.
"In abduction-homicides, the child is dead within three hours," Allen said.
"You can't wait until tomorrow. One of the really important things is that there not be hesitancy on the part of law enforcement, broadcasters or the public to respond to these cases. That is because time is the enemy."
"It's an emotional rollercoaster," friend Bridgette Olive said.
All of it leaves Four Oaks residents wondering who to believe. Many worked tirelessly to spread the word about the boy's disappearance, only to find out it was a hoax.
"I can't pass, um, prejudgment on nothing his family did because we don't everything from the police," Barbour said.
Monday search crews were stationed at the mother's home as part of the investigation. It's estimated those efforts cost tens of thousands of dollars.