DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Nine days alone for a child is more than enough to make a mother worry.
“After he hadn’t shown back up, then the panic starts to set in,” Braedon-Layne Smith’s mother, Sarah Malone said.
At the start of November, Smith wandered away from his grandparent’s home. He spent more than a week in the woods and spent time in homeless camps around Dothan, Alabama.
He finally returned to his grandparent’s house on Wednesday, Nov. 10 unannounced and malnourished.
“By the grace of God he came wandering up to the porch last night,” said Malone. “He was hungry. And he showed up to my mom’s house asking for food. He wanted Doritos and a Mountain Dew.”
Smith said very little about what happened during that time.
He has mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, that make it difficult for him to survive on his own.
“Some children have mental health issues and they wander,” Malone said. “It doesn’t matter if they are runaways. Every child that is missing deserves to be looked for.”
Dothan police and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency eventually sent out alerts; days after Malone told them he disappeared.
“I felt like they didn’t take my son’s case seriously at all and all missing children cases should be taken seriously,” said Malone.
She says Smith had disappeared before but was never gone more than 24 hours.
Now, his family is taking extra precautions to prevent something this frightening from happening again.
“The first thing we did today was purchase a cell phone so he can carry it with him at all times,” said Malone. “It has the tracking.”
Before Smith returned home, Malone said she took matters into her own hands by hiring a private investigator.
She said he was the one who learned her son had been seen by people at the homeless camps.
But ultimately, the case was closed when Smith showed back up to his grandparent’s house, alone.