News Article Details

Body of missing 6-year-old boy with autism found in Seminole County, deputies say

Orlando Sentinel - 8/6/2018

Aug. 05--The body of a missing 6-year-old boy was found on Sunday in a pond in Lake Mary, according to Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

Authorities had been searching the area since Saturday evening for Humza Mohammad Syed, a child with autism, who had wandered from his family's home on Ridgemount Place in the gated community of Heathrow, Lemma told reporters on Sunday.

Syed's older brothers were home at the time, noticed the garage door was open and reported the boy as missing around 8:30 p.m. after they couldn't find him inside the house, Lemma said.

Authorities initially described Syed as nonverbal but Lemma later clarified that family members said the boy was "selectively verbal" regarding when and how he chose to speak to people.

Law enforcement had not received any previous reports of Syed going missing -- the family had only lived in the home for 30 days -- but relatives described the boy "as a runner," Lemma said.

"That largely came from his participation in school. They said when he became angered or frightened, he would typically run away from those situations," Lemma said.

Investigators do not believe Syed's death involved foul play, according to Lemma. Deputies are not conducting a criminal investigation, he added.

Around 50 neighbors in the gated community, many walking with their dogs, searched for Syed shortly after he was reported missing Saturday night, Lemma said. Deputies also combed the area with a helicopter and K-9 dogs.

"They were not successful probably because he was in the water already," Lemma said, adding that it was extremely dark and difficult to search bodies of water.

Resident Tom McNamara posted on the sheriff's office Facebook page that deputies knocked on his door at 2 a.m. to ask if he had any surveillance devices around his home as they searched for Syed.

"The effort that went into this was absolutely amazing and though they did not find him alive, it was not for a lack of effort," McNamara wrote.

Investigators suspect Syed drowned but his official cause of death is pending the medical examiner's report.

Family members told authorities that Syed was not afraid of water but did not know how to swim.

Non-profit organization, Autism Speaks, says water safety is critical for children with autism because many individuals on the spectrum are drawn to bodies of water.

Parents are encouraged to emphasize the danger of drowning, take precautions to prevent wandering and let neighbors know their child has autism so they can be on high alert if the child is seen alone.

lgarza@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5354

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