'They found him and he's OK'

RURAL BIWABIK -- For more than 21 hours, Ted and Missy Lagerquist lived with a parent's worse fear -- the sickening uncertainty of a missing child. Then, in a moment, the dread was swept aside by joy and relief at the word that searchers had foun...

RURAL BIWABIK -- For more than 21 hours, Ted and Missy Lagerquist lived with a parent's worse fear -- the sickening uncertainty of a missing child.

Then, in a moment, the dread was swept aside by joy and relief at the word that searchers had found their 6-year-old son, Jacob, alive and well, in the woods within a mile of home.

"Praise the Lord!'' Ted Lagerquist said, holding Jacob in his arms a few minutes after his return. "I expected the worst. God bless everybody ... It's been a tough 24 hours for us.''

Jacob admitted that he had been scared in the woods alone. When he heard searchers calling, "I called out daddy's voice [name]. I called out mommy's voice."

Family members last saw Jacob about 6:15 p.m. Monday. Jacob told reporters that he "was following his dog around" when he got lost.


The dog returned home, but Jacob didn't. His father, who was working outside, missed Jacob when things went quiet. Checking inside the house and realizing Jacob wasn't there, the family began searching for him. They called 911 around 7:30 p.m., and authorities started a ground and air search. They searched all night.

Jacob, who weighs about 80 pounds, was dressed in a long-sleeved sweatshirt, sweatpants and tennis shoes. Temperatures dropped to about 45 degrees overnight and hypothermia was a concern, officials said.

Jacob lives with his parents, a younger sister and Ted Lagerquist's parents about seven miles south of Biwabik. The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office made the family property search headquarters. A mobile command post and a Red Cross truck helped coordinate and feed searchers. A State Patrol helicopter helped search Monday night and Tuesday morning. A Department of Natural Resources conservation officer searched a nearby river by boat. More than 100 searchers combed fields, swamps, thick woods and dense underbrush on foot Tuesday.

"You have thick areas, open areas, rivers and swamps. And the swamps are horrendous,'' St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said just hours before the boy was found.

Heather Kothbauer of Superior, Jacob's cousin, joined the search with her husband, Jeff, early Tuesday.

"He's an outgoing, curious, 6-year-old boy,'' she said of Jacob.

Before Jacob was found, she said the family was thankful for the outpouring of support.

"The number of searchers is just great,'' she said.


Josh Larson, who lives about five miles from the Lagerquists, joined the search about noon Tuesday.

"I have a lot of nephews the same age," and would feel terrible if any of them were lost, Larson said. He and seven other searchers spaced themselves 30 feet apart and walked a search sector about a mile long.

"There were lots of little ponds, lots of old junk cars back there -- lots of places he could be," said Larson, who is taller than 6 feet and was wet to his knees.

Tim Baldonado of Biwabik Township has a child the same age as Jacob. He also volunteered to search for Jacob and prayed for a happy outcome.

At about 3:30 p.m., Baldonado was working with several other searchers when he spotted the boy hugging a small tree about 25 feet away.

"He was standing next to a tree. I was calling his name, and he called 'mommy,' '' Baldonado said. "He asked me if I knew his mom and his dad.''

Baldonado hugged the boy. The other searchers in the group were subdued. They held back dense underbrush so Baldonado could easily carry Jacob to Trigstad Road. Jacob, who had wandered about three-quarters of a mile from home, was found only about 25 yards from the road.

Watchers at the Lagerquist home knew something was up when they heard a happy cry. Jeff Kothbauer flashed a thumbs-up sign to waiting media, then came to the end of the family driveway to deliver the good news to waiting reporters.


"They found him and he's OK," a happy Kothbauer said.

A few minutes later, a rescue squad SUV pulled into the driveway, Jacob riding in the passenger seat, and the family was reunited.

Minutes later, Ted Lagerquist carried Jacob in his arms to the end of the family's driveway to meet with reporters. Jacob said he spent the night "out in the woods. I was sleeping out there.''

After the impromptu news conference, medical workers checked Jacob over in the back of an ambulance and returned him to his family.

"We are going to give him lots of hugs and kisses" after he's been examined, Ted Lageruist said.

News Tribune reporter John Myers contributed to this report.

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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