A 2-year-old child who wandered from his mother early Sunday as they were about a board a southbound Continental Trailways bus finally was found yesterday afternoon in Asheville, N.C. - about 500 miles, 12 hours, and 11 bus stops later.
Asheville police said the boy, identified by D.C. police as Jamal Butts of Newark, N.J., was found asleep in a bus.
Officer John M. Biggs of the Asheville Police Department said in a telephone interview that officers from the departments's juvenile section had gone to the bus station after receiving a call about 2 p.m. yesterday from Trailways Ticket agent in Asherville.
"No one was with him and no one apparently knew him and that's when they called us from the bus station," Biggs said.
Because the child is only 2 and was unable to provide police with any information, he could not identified until Asherville police received a message from D.C. police with the missing child's name and description. Official Biggs said the child responded to the sound of his name.
The youngster is being kept in a foster home in Asherville until plans are complete to return him to his family, who canceled a trip to North Carolina and stayed in Washington after the child was lost.
News that the child had been found arrived shortly before 5 p.m. at the special command center D.C. police had set up on the second floor of the Continental Trailways bus station at 1200 I St., NW. A 25-man police team was preparing to again canves a wide area around the station in search of the youngster, but police called off the search late yesterday afternoon after confirming that the child found in Asheville was the one they were seeking.
According to the child's mother, Sylvia Butts, the incident began around 2 a.m. as she, her four children, and her mother walked onto the platform to board a bus that was to take them to Nicholas, S.C., to visit relatives. The family had boarded the bus in Newark and was in Washington on a stop-over.
Mrs. Butts said she went to find out what bus they were to board then returned to the area of the station where the children were sitting with their grandmother. That was the last time she saw Jamal. Mrs. Butts said the child was lost in the crowded station as the family walked from the terminal to the platform.
"A lot of people were getting on the bus," Mrs. Butts said. "He could have gone along with all those people, he could have gotten mixed up in the crowd."
Lt. David C. Calvin of the first district said all the buses still in the station were searched and that messages were sent immediately to the Virginia State Police in Richmond asking that the buses be searched upon their arrival in the city.