Missing 9-year-old boy found safe near Wendell after spending night in a camper

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
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The missing 9-year-old boy in Wake County was found safe just before noon after more than 24 hours of searching.

WENDELL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The young boy who went missing has been found safe more than 24 hours after he was last seen in Wendell. New details have emerged about how he survived during a cold, rainy night.

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker confirmed that 9-year-old Bentley Stancil was found safe around noon on Wednesday. The sheriff's office said Bentley was found in a camper that was in an area that had been previously searched. He was found after a tip came in about his location.

"We are very pleased to let you know he has been located," Baker said. "He is safe. And he has been checked out."

WATCH: Sheriff's office gives update on search

After being found, Bentley was checked out by EMS and was deemed to be in good condition.

"I'm just thankful for everybody involved who helped out," said Kayla Stancil, Bentley's mom. "Because this could have turned out very bad. And it didn't. And he's OK. He's resourceful, and he found an RV to stay in for shelter. And it had power. He stayed warm all night. He didn't get wet. And he found a cat that he fell in love with that we might be taking home."

State, local and federal agencies assisted in the search.

"He was actively hiding at the time," said Sgt. Anthony Gurganus of the Wake County Sheriff's Office. "And we're trying to sort through the details there as to whether he was concerned about the presence of people in the area. You know, law enforcement and how heavy the presence was there."

Bentley left his home Tuesday morning heading to the school bus stop. However, he never got on the bus and an AMBER Alert was issued later in the day. Baker said Wednesday morning that investigators believed that Bentley was still on the move, and the sheriff added that he had no specific reason to believe the boy was in imminent danger.

Bentley was found in a camper on Marshburn Road, authorities said.

"He looked at me and smiled, and said I knew you was gonna find me," said Brandon Stancil, Bentley's father. "I was like son, I ain't been to sleep, I ain't been home, I ain't been to work. I couldn't just go nowhere and sit around with my son out there. He jumped about 10 feet in my arms. And that's the best feeling to where I could feel, I found my son and he's all right."

ABC11 also spoke to the boy's sisters who were just happy to have their little brother back.

"I'm super relieved that we found him. My heart dropped whenever I saw him," one sister said. "I'm very relieved. This is my birthday so this is like the best birthday present ever, to know that he's safe," said the other.

Kayla Stancil said her son found "something to eat and a microwave" in the RV.

"He said he knew that we would come and find him," she added. "That's why he stayed put because he knew we were close by."

What is an AMBER Alert

Created in 1996, the AMBER Alert was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl from Arlington, Texas, who was abducted and found dead in a pond four days later. It also stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

Officially, the alert is a voluntary tool used by law enforcement agencies across the country, but only on a regional basis. While the first alerts were broadcast on televisions and radios, AMBER Alerts have gained more prominence with the prevalence of cell phones, and in 2013, agencies started issuing automatic alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program, instantly growing the alert's reach by millions.

The U.S. Department of Justice lists five recommendations for law enforcement agencies to consider before issuing an AMBER Alert:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child's name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

In this particular case, it does not appear that Stancil's case meets these guidelines. So when asked why the Wake County Sheriff's Office decided to request the use of an AMBER Alert, Baker said his department wanted to utilize every tool available to get the boy back home safely.