LAURINBURG — As the search for Raul Johnson drags into a fourth day, the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office is bringing in outside help and considering whether to shift the focus of the effort.
On Thursday, the FBI reached out to the Sheriff’s Office to help find the 4-year-old, according to Sheriff Ralph Kersey.
“If a child is missing more than 24 hours, they offer their services,” Kersey said.
The child has been missing since Wednesday from his home on Village Drive.
The last person to see the boy was an elderly neighbor with whom he visits for snacks. That was around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The woman said she last saw the him headed back toward his home.
Raul and his 6-year-old sister were being kept by a grandfather while the mother, Annie Johnson, was at work. When the grandfather realized the child was missing, he spent an hour looking for Raul on the property before calling authorities.
Raul stands 3-feet tall and weighs 47 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a white and orange tiger-striped shirt and pajama pants with rocket ships on them. He was barefoot.
Investigators will reexamine evidence looking for anything that may have overlooked. They will also re-interview witnesses and family members.
Detectives are considering draining two ponds near the child’s home. The first is a pond in the Oak Grove area. The second is a man-made pond on a farm belonging to Joe Manis, owner of Manis Custom Builders.
Evidence found in area caused searchers to focus on Manis’ pond. Child- sized foot prints were found in the mud around the pond, according to Kersey. Investigators believe the prints had to be fresh because rain that fell in the area on Monday night would have washed away old prints. Three different search dogs led rescuers to the pond as well.
Dive teams from Marlboro and Cumberland counties searched the pond on Wednesday and Thursday but did not find the child.
Manis was reluctant to allow his pond to be drained. Officials are hopeful that he will change his mind.
“We’re thankful that the family has allowed us on the property for this extended period of time,” Sadovnikov said. “We hope that in the pursuit of justice and safety and what is right for the little boy, the family will continue to allow access to the farm. If they don’t we will take the next step.”
Officials could ask a judge for a search warrant that may include draining the pond.
The Sheriff’s Office plans to bring in reinforcements to give exhausted county personnel a chance to rest. More than 300 law enforcement and other first responders have been involved in the search since Wednesday.
Sadovnikov urged residents to continue to be alert for Raul and to not hesitate to call if they have information.
She expressed the office’s gratitude to the assisting agencies and the public.
“We’ve got assistance from as far away as Richmond, Virginia, and the volunteers who showed up, we’re so grateful to them especially for the people who donated food. That’s been a big help. If we had not had it, some of us would not have had a meal.”
Reach Beth Lawrence at 910-506-3169