The sudden disappearance of a child is a harrowing experience that can strike terror in the heart of any parent. This scenario is far more common than most people would like to believe, with statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States alone.
One such instance occurred in June 2018 in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky, when two-year-old Charlee Campbell went missing. As Charlee was autistic and often nonverbal, the urgency of the situation was paramount. Local police, firefighters, and over 100 volunteers quickly mobilized to aid in the search.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that Charlee’s grandmother, who had been watching her, woke up to find both the child and the family pit bull, Penny, gone. As the grandmother’s home was situated in a rural area, the searchers were forced to comb the surrounding woods and fields, but to no avail.
Despite the overwhelming odds against her, Charlee’s disappearance garnered national attention, and missing posters were circulated throughout the community with detailed descriptions of her and what she was last seen wearing. Residents were on high alert and hoping for a positive outcome.
One of the residents, Wayne Brown, was especially concerned about Charlee. Having previously lost his own little brother to a similar incident, he knew the gravity of the situation. When he spotted a small, dirty, and tick-infested blond girl in his backyard with a Frozen character on her shirt, he immediately knew that he had found Charlee. He contacted the authorities, who quickly arrived and took Charlee to the hospital for a check-up.
After almost 32 hours of being lost in the wilderness, Charlee was understandably a little dehydrated, but miraculously unharmed. To make the story even more heartwarming, Penny the pit bull showed up back at Charlee’s grandmother’s house at the same time that Charlee was found, leading many to believe that Penny had guarded the little girl and kept her safe during her ordeal.
The incident had a happy ending, but it serves as a reminder of the dangers of living in a rural area, with its natural hazards like coyotes, rattlesnakes, copperheads, and ticks. As Wayne Brown put it, “I think God directed me to her, and I was the first one to find her. I think she would have been dead by the end of the day.”