DALTON, Ga. — A 3-year-old boy found alone in rural Whitfield County waited for two hours in a tiny restaurant Monday while authorities searched for his parents.
It turned out the child, wandering barefoot near Airport Road on a hot morning wearing just his underwear, lived at a house less than 100 yards away.
The boy sat silently for most of those two hours, said Mitchell Vance, the cook at the restaurant, Ann’s Place.
“He was petrified, poor little fellow,” Mr. Vance said.
Police located the boy’s parents by 1 p.m., and the case is being investigated by the Whitfield Sheriff’s Department and the Division of Family and Children Services.
“We are currently interviewing momma and daddy both,” Sheriff Scott Chitwood said Monday afternoon.
A customer at Ann’s Place spotted the blond boy and phoned authorities, Mr. Vance said. The child had been wandering along Airport Road and Hillwood Drive, just outside the restaurant.
A television news crew also arrived at the restaurant, and the toddler’s parents were identified later after when a neighbor recognized him on the news, county spokeswoman Brooke Bennett said.
The parents apparently didn’t realize the child was missing, with each assuming the boy was with the other, Ms. Bennett said. “It sounds like a total mishap,” she said. The mother “thought he was going to his daddy’s.”
The youngster dominated conversation at Ann’s Place well after he had left the restaurant.
“I’m just really glad they found his momma,” said Ann Campbell, the eatery’s namesake.
Mr. Vance said he coaxed the boy into eating some chicken and french fries.
“It took about two hours to finally get him to eat something,” the cook said. “You could see almost all the ribs in his little body.”
Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Claude Craig, who responded to the call, said “wandering children” are not that rare. He said the sheriff’s department gets one or two similar calls a year.