A tense drama over a missing five-year-old boy in the Maples ended Saturday afternoon when the sheepish-looking child wandered out from a neighbour’s home after being missing for almost 16 hours.
Family and friends had searched the neighbourhood, around the intersection of Sheppard Street and Inkster Boulevard, all night and well into the next morning searching for young Jaden Franklin, who was last seen playing with friends near his Marlow Court home around 9 p.m.
According to a family friend, Jaden was with about a half a dozen neighbourhood boys who were about to start boxing together. "They turned around and Jaden was gone," she said. "Just like that."
The family reported the boy missing around 10 p.m. and the search began. On Saturday morning, city police asked for the public’s assistance in the search, while parents sat helpless on their cement porch.
"I don’t know what to think right now," father Conrad Franklin said, describing his son as "shy" and "very energetic."
"He’s not a kid who would take off like that," Franklin added. "He’s never alone."
Around 1 p.m., two plain-clothed officers arrived to resume canvassing the neighborhood, and proceeded to a home directly across the back lane from the Franklin’s complex. While officers questioned some kids inside, Jaden’s mother, Priscilla, was talking about the search to a friend on her cellphone in the neighbour’s backyard.
Suddenly, Priscilla seemed to spot something in her line of sight, dropped the phone, and darted for a boy in the back lane who seemed to appear out of nowhere at about 1:30 p.m.
"He’s here! He’s here!" the mother shouted. "We found him."
Priscilla repeatedly asked, "Where have to been?" while police, neighbours and family members arrived on the scene.
The boy – seemingly bewildered about what all the fuss was about - was quickly escorted to his own home, just a few metres away. Only moments later, the boy came out holding the hand of a family friend, taking her directly to another home across the back lane, where he had apparently spent the night with a friend.
Police entered the home, then left about 10 minutes later without comment. There still has been no statement from police, other than Jaden had been located.
A family friend, pastor Darrell Sanderson, spoke for the parents shortly after Jaden had been found.
"They’re really in shock right now," Sanderson said. "We’re just thanking God for watching over our little boy. Words can’t explain how you feel when your little child goes missing."
Sanderson said the boy was eating pizza "like nothing ever happened. He appears to be fine."
The pastor added that the incident was a cautionary tale for parents.
"It’s a good eye-opener," he said. "Keep your children close and be aware of where they are at all times."
That hasn’t always been the case, said neighbour Jasmine Perreault.
"Some parents here just let their kids wander off," she said. "You see kids out at 9 (p.m.), 10 (p.m.) or even later. I always make sure my kids are in sight so I know dead sure where they are. If I can’t see one of them, I’m out the door, regardless. That’s my worst nightmare."
Even after the boy had been found, some family were in disbelief that he was apparently only metres away while they had frantically searched all night.
"We’ve been up and down these streets," said cousin Tanya Draper. "We’ve been knocking on doors... any playground in the vicinity. We went to the hospital, the McDonalds, the Sev (7-Eleven). Everywhere. Now he appears out of nowhere (in the back lane). It’s freaky. But we’re glad he’s OK."