© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.

Former Marine finds missing Brooksville boy safe in woods

An older man with a beard and wearing a baseball cap holds a little boy with curly hair. The man is smiling. The boy's legs and arms have a number of bug bites on them.
Brooksville County Sheriff's Office
Roy Link holds Joshua "JJ" Rowland after finding the missing two-year-old in Brooksville Feb. 24, 2023. Some 500 volunteers and scores of law enforcement officers had been searching for Rowland since he wandered out of his home a day earlier.

The boy was checked by paramedics and appeared to be fine, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.

A former U.S. Marine is being hailed as a hero Friday for finding a 2-year-old boy who had been missing since wandering out of his north Florida home a day earlier.

“I said a prayer about 10 minutes before I found him,” Roy Link told Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis in a video the sheriff's office posted on Facebook.

Some 500 volunteers and scores of law enforcement officers had searched for Joshua “JJ” Rowland since he was reported missing by his parents.

Sheriff's officials said the boy left the home in Brooksville while one of his parents was asleep.

“Roy Link is the man of the year here in Hernando County,” the sheriff said.

Brooksville is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Tampa on Florida's Gulf Coast.

The boy was found in the woods a “good distance” from his house, Nienhuis said.

“The good news is he did not end up in any water, obviously, and he was not abducted,” the sheriff said. “He was found in the woods. He seems to be fine. He’s definitely going to have something to tell his kids and grandkids about."

The sheriff said he was overwhelmed by the large number of volunteers who turned out to look for the child.

The boy was checked by paramedics and appeared to be fine, the sheriff said.

“I was hoping and praying for a miracle. I certainly was not expecting one,” he said. “I'm sure mom and dad are going to keep an eye on him from this point forward."