Body found in pond confirmed as missing Texas City child with autism, officials say

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter, Jacob Rascon - Anchor-Reporter, Brittany Taylor - Digital News Editor, Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Sofia Ojeda - Anchor/Reporter

TEXAS CITY, Texas - A body found in a pond has been identified as a boy with autism who recently went missing in Texas City, officials said Tuesday.

Xavion Young, 7, who was reported missing on Sunday, drowned after he left his mother's home and somehow slipped into the pond, officials said Tuesday.

The family of Xavion Young was heartbroken after divers recovered the boy's body in the pond directly behind the family apartment, feet from where he was last seen.

The discovery at 5:45 p.m. Monday came about 30 hours after Xavion was reported missing by his family.

"He has never wandered off from home," his mother, JaRisha Young, told KPRC.

The only exception was when Xavion crawled under the fence to feed the goose near the pond, family members said.

Law enforcement officers immediately focused their search on that pond and several others in the area. But divers searched and used sonar equipment late Sunday night into Monday morning and without finding anything.

The search expanded Monday to include more than 150 volunteers and some 130 law enforcement officers from 16 agencies canvassing a 2 1/2 mile area around the Costa Mariposa Apartments. Helicopters, divers, bloodhounds and other resources were also used.

Tim Miller, with Equusearch, is heartbroken by the case, saying he doesn't know where he went wrong.

"I sonared this pond myself Sunday night," Miller said, teary-eyed. "I've been all over the country in the most difficult places and I missed him. It wasn't a mechanical error, it was an operational error. I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong so it doesn't happen again, but I'm taking it tough."

Three fishermen found his body in a pond that previously been searched by a dive team. Police say the pond’s shape inhibited the sonar equipment’s capability.

KPRC2

The scene where a boy's body was found in Texas City on Jan. 7, 2019.

“He turned up in a pond that was searched for seven hours. We did our due diligence but we were not able to locate him,” said Texas City police Chief Joe Stanton.

Texas City police Chief Joe Stanton said investigators didn't suspect any foul play, so no Amber Alert was issued. An endangered missing persons report was filed. Police intend to double check how steep the slope leading into the pond is along with its dimensions to make sure it’s in compliance with city code.

"The support from the community has been tremendous," Stanton said early Monday.

Less than an hour before the body was discovered, the missing boy's mother pleaded with the public.

"I'm trying to stay strong for my other two girls, but inside I'm dying," JaRisha said, crying. "I'm dying, and I need you all, please, just bring my baby home."

JaRisha and other family members said Xavion was nonverbal, but would respond to his name by making an owl sound. He wasn't wearing a shirt or shoes when he left the apartment's back door at noon Sunday.

Young family members said JaRisha started to fear the worst by Monday afternoon.

Around 5:45 p.m., a deputy burst into the command center at College of the Mainland and announced that a body had been found.

Photos: Missing Texas City 7-year-old, Xavion Young

Police vehicles swarmed the pond area, and the body was carried away. Young family members could be heard crying in the distance. In the wake of his tragic death, it didn’t take long for the community to show how much it cares. People left behind flowers, balloons and a stuffed animal next to the retention pond where Xavion drowned.

“My son just wanted to do something. He asked me and I said of course. Just went and got something and put it out there,” Amanda Blalock said.

La Marque School officials told KPRC2 Tuesday would have been Xavion's first day back to school since the holiday break. He attended La Marque Primary School and was part of a program where he got the special attention he needed.

A spokeswoman says teachers and students are just devastated. Students and staff are finding comfort in each other as they work through their grief.

One of his teachers, Savanah Mackenroth called Young a "loving and sweet boy."

"He was always happy and had a smile that could light up any room," Mackenroth said. "In the time I had Xavion, we got to see him grow so much academically, socially, and emotionally. He learned to laugh, play with others, and express himself.  He gave the best one-handed hugs, loved playing and being outside, and enjoyed coming to school.  You could always find a smile on Xavion’s face and the book, 'Max for President' in his hand. He was truly such a sweet and gentle soul that will be missed by all.

There are counselors on hand for anyone who may need them.

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