Authorities in Wyoming are frantically searching for a teen with autism who they say has been missing for close to two weeks after he wandered out of his parents’ home and into the wilderness, amid the brutally cold weather.
Joseph “Joey” Peterson left his residence near Casper on November 10 between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., a spokesperson with the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office said during a recent press conference.
At that time, NCSO’s Deputy Sean Ellis said the 16-year-old was not wearing any shoes and only a sweatshirt and pajama pants.
“Joseph is autistic who functions at a higher level, but is not self-sufficient and does not problem solve at an age-appropriate level,” Ellis explained, according to CNN. “Joseph was not dressed for the weather, and it’s believed [he] was last seen wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt and pajama pants.”
Over the last 10 days, search teams have covered 250 square miles of land via foot and air looking for Peterson, as the natural elements have continued to provide challenges to find evidence.
The only signs of the teen have been his footprints, which were located by officials on Nov. 16 several miles from his home, the NCSO spokesperson said.
The foot impressions were the same ones from when Peterson first left his home on Nov. 10 and were confirmed by experts to be multiple days old. They were also discovered in an area that had previously experienced two snowfalls and one rainfall.
Three days later, search teams found an additional matching track of footprints on Tuesday.
“That track provided a general direction of travel through very steep mountainous terrain, and a comprehensive search of that area is ongoing,” the spokesperson said. “Search teams comprised of mounted searchers, tracking experts, and K9 teams are converging from both sides of an area where Joey is believed to have walked toward.”
“Drone Kings have conducted multiple searches and recorded many hours of video of the search area with their drones,” the spokesperson added. “We know Joey did not take a straight-line path to that location.”
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As of Wednesday afternoon, the NCSO spokesperson said the teams were anticipating the search to get even more difficult due to an approaching storm that was bringing heavy snowfall, below-freezing temperatures and a lack of visibility.
“With poor weather expected to move in overnight, we remain persistent and hopeful of finding Joey as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said. “Factoring in the time frame, lack of clothing Joey was wearing, no food source and extreme weather conditions, the search for Joey at this time is consistent with a recovery.”
“This does not mean that we will not continue searching for him,” he reassured. “We are analyzing data that will indicate areas of probability. Methodical and organized searches will continue.”
Ellis told CNN that authorities do not suspect foul play in Peterson’s disappearance and noted that the teen, who is 5’9″ and approximately 120 pounds, does not have a cell phone with him.
Anyone with information on Peterson’s whereabouts is asked to call (307) 235-9300.