Local News Spotlight

Search for missing boy in bitter cold ends with relief

Updated: 2013-01-25T05:18:07Z

By DONALD BRADLEY

The Kansas City Star

Years from now, should Zayden Henderson ever complain about being stuck out in the cold, somebody may pounce.

“Cold, huh?”

Then they will tell him a story about way back on Jan. 24, 2013.

A little boy, 3, went missing that winter morning. His mother awoke and couldn’t find him. The front door to their Lenexa apartment had been unlocked and unbolted, something the tyke had done before using a stepstool.

The family dog, a Yorkie, was gone, too.

It was 9 degrees. A breeze blew. The boy was barefoot, clad only in Disney pajamas.

The mother, frantic, called police about 4:45 a.m. Officers were soon combing the neighborhood, in cars and on foot. Media put out the word about the missing boy.

People bundled up, left their warm homes and took to the streets in the half light of a bitter dawn. Some drove from other cities. School age to senior citizens, some with flashlights, they searched alleys and backyards, between houses, through brush, in trash bins and behind cars.

If in a pair, they huddled against the cold as they walked.

“Anything?” somebody would yell.

Everybody looked before the shake of a head sent them on.

Some brought their dogs.

“I thought maybe the boy’s dog might be drawn to him,” Chris Shanks said through her scarf with Gus, a chocolate Lab, at her side.

Others slowly cruised side streets. Helicopters buzzed overhead. Police from other cities arrived to join the search.

This little boy, it seemed, belonged to everyone.

This little boy was Zayden Henderson. All that time Thursday, as people searched frigid city blocks, he was sleeping just feet away from his home, across the hall, warm, in a neighbor’s apartment, never having gone outside.

The complex is Oak Park Village, near 95th and Monrovia streets.

Zayden had gotten up in the night, unlocked the door and gone into the hallway with his dog. A neighbor found the two outside her door. She then knocked on Zayden’s door to wake his mother, who never answered. So the woman took Zayden and the dog inside. Soon they were all asleep.

“Unfortunately, they didn’t wake up this morning when officers knocked on their door,” said Lenexa police spokesman Dan Friesen.

The neighbor said later that she wished she had called police when she couldn’t rouse the mother.

“But it’s just a tremendous sense of relief for everybody,” Friesen said. “Because of the cold he probably wouldn’t have survived long.”

The boy’s mother declined to comment Thursday.

Cliff Henderson, the ex-husband of Zayden’s mother, said it wasn’t the first time the boy had left home on his own. He once even took keys and started the car.

“Sometimes he’s too smart for his own britches,” Henderson said.

After Henderson received a text saying Zayden was missing, he walked what he estimated was at least four miles through the neighborhood near Oak Park Mall looking for him.

He wept after he learned Zayden was safe.

“He’s not my son, but I love him very much,” Henderson said. “I thank everyone for coming out and looking for him.”

And they are probably all thankful he was found where he was, asleep in a warm bed.

A story for Zayden some cold day down the road.

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to dbradley@kcstar.com.

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