Missing 6-Year-Old Autistic Boy Saved by Band of Unlikely Heroes

A missing 6-year-old autistic boy who was found three miles from his home has been reunited with his family. The boy, who had been missing for a night after he wandered away from his home, was rescued by some unlikely heroes.

Little Sergio Zepeda was watching cartoons in his family's home in San Jose, California, when his mom noticed things were a bit too quiet and went to check on him. She noticed the garage door was open and her son, who is non-verbal, was gone.


Sergio's mother, Augustina Quinteros, and her boyfriend called 911. Seventeen hours later, the boy still hadn't been found and the family was beginning to panic.

But four miles away, another group of people were just waking up to an unexpected visitor. The homeless people who live in makeshift tents a few miles from Sergio's home were fast asleep when one of the people, Jose Salmeron, heard a noise around 4 a.m.

Salmeron investigated and was astonished to see a person -- little and completely naked. "Like E.T.," he told The Mercury News.

Sergio had left his home in clothes but apparently torn them off sometime during his travels. He had traveled three miles over a hilly terrain. Autistic kids are known to wander as well as take off their clothes.

Salmeron, who was with his wife, hollered to his campmates and they all came to look at the naked little boy who had shown up in their midst.

While some here might imagine a tragedy about to enfold, the reality is that Salmeron, his wife, and their friends got the shivering little boy some food and water and wrapped him in a blanket. Salmeron was so sensitive to the boy's needs that when he first didn't answer the man about whether he wanted water, Salmeron asked the question in Spanish. He also ate a muffin in front of the boy first to show him the food was safe.

Because the little boy couldn't speak, he was unable to tell the couple where he'd come from.

Salmeron then got a friend's cellphone and called 911. The boy has been reunited with his family.

The group are insisting they are not heroes. None except Salmeron would speak to the press (probably worried media attention will force them out of their shantytown), but he told the outlet:

It was the only right thing to do. When you see a helpless kid like that, you are supposed to do the right thing, and just call the cops right away. Thank God he didn't get hit by a train, or fall into the water.

This is the kind of encampment most people wouldn't want in their backyards -- but in this case, having it nearby saved this little boy's life. Thank you to the heroes there. Now let's hope they are allowed to stay where they have managed to create a home, the type of loving home that would welcome and save a scared, shivering little boy.

Does this story surprise you?


Image via San Jose Police

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