Investigation continues into death of Iron Co. toddler

Body of missing Iron Co. toddler found in van near home
(Source: Amber Tackett/Facebook)
(Source: Amber Tackett/Facebook)
Iron County Sheriff Roger Medley spoke during a press conference at 12:30 p.m. (Source: KFVS)
Iron County Sheriff Roger Medley spoke during a press conference at 12:30 p.m. (Source: KFVS)
Sgt. Clark Parrott with the Missouri State Highway Patrol also spoke during the press conference. (Source: KFVS)
Sgt. Clark Parrott with the Missouri State Highway Patrol also spoke during the press conference. (Source: KFVS)

IRON COUNTY, MO (KFVS/AP) - The investigation into the death of an Iron County toddler continues.

The Iron County coroner said he believes three-year-old Titus Tackett died of hypothermia.

Coroner Tony Cole said the autopsy showed there was no internal bleeding or bruises on Titus Greyson Tackett's body. He said he's still waiting on toxicology results.

Our sister station, KMOV in St. Louis reports that Iron County Sheriff Roger Medley said nothing in the autopsy report was "glaring," and authorities don't expect to make a decision until the toxicology report comes back.

KMOV also reports that the boy's parents said they left the toddler with a grandparent when they went to run an errand around midnight. When the parents returned home around 1 a.m. they noticed the door to the house was open and the child was missing.

The coroner said three-year-old Titus was found dead in a van on Wednesday about a .5 mile from his house, on Highway 72.

He said it is state law for every child's death, 16 years old and younger, to be investigated.

According to the Iron County Sheriff, foul play is not suspected in the death of the 3-year-old.

A news conference was held at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Lake Killarney in Arcadia Township.

During the press conference, Iron County Sheriff Roger Medley said Titus was found at 11 a.m.

Sgt. Clark Parrott with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said he was found by a volunteer in a van. He said the boy was under a blanket.

Medley reports people have been asking about the blanket found with the child. On Feb. 16, Medley reports a blanket was placed on the child's body before the sheriff's department got to the body. However, Medley says the blanket has nothing to with the investigation.

This case was hard on those investigating it.

"It makes you pause and reflect on what you do have," Sgt. Parrott said.

He asked that everyone respect the family's privacy and pray for them.

We talked to Tom Ritchie, one of the men who found Titus. He said his world stopped when he saw the little boy.

"I freaked out and my heart sunk, you know for the little guy, but he was a long way from home," Ritchie said. "He was probably a good mile from home; and all of a sudden a guy who told me, 'Go down there and look,' he come up there and that ended up being his house."

Other volunteers who were there along Highway 72, just outside Arcadia, when officials found the child in the van, say they cannot imagine what his family is going through.

Investigators did not say whether or not there is suspected foul play, but did say they were conducting interviews throughout the afternoon.

Sgt. Clark Parrott said they plan to learn more about exactly how the boy died when the autopsy is finished.

Still, those who joined the search on Wednesday morning say things just don't add up.

"Three-year-old kid, that far away, opening up a van door. I don't see the baby opening up these doors because they are kind of hard to open up. Three-years-old in a diaper."

Sgt. Parrott said it's too early on in the investigation to determine how little Titus got out of his house and how he got inside that van. He also said they do not know what the connection is between the toddler's family and the owner of the van, or if there is a connection.

Others who came to help search say, now, they're sending prayers to the family.

"They were opening up the van door and waiting on the coroner to get here. They just took the baby out just a few minutes ago."

"Everybody says just put yourself in their shoes, but it'd be hard to do that."

"Prayers, lots of prayers for them."

Troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Iron County Sheriff's Office were actively searching for Titus. That search was called off just before noon.

Titus went missing late on Tuesday evening, when temperatures hovered in the teens.

His family told police he was last seen at the family's home after midnight on Tuesday, wearing only a diaper.

According to Coroner Tony Cole, his mother said he had wandered off.

Sgt. Clark Parrot with the highway patrol said the sheriff's office requested additional help to locate the boy around midnight.

A helicopter was dispatched early on Wednesday morning to assist with the search.

Sheriff Medley said police sent two dogs into the wooded area before sending in a search party of about 50 people.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to the report.