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Missing boy found dead; sheriff says investigation ongoing

By Sonny Long
March 26, 2012 at 12:02 p.m.
Updated March 25, 2012 at 10:26 p.m.


A missing 4-year-old boy reportedly was mauled to death by a neighbor's pit bulls.

The boy, Kyler Johnson, disappeared from the 1100 block of Old Goliad Road about 8 p.m. Sunday. Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor confirmed the boy's death during an afternoon press conference.

A neighbor found the boy about 10:30 a.m. Monday near his home.

A family friend, Ken Hutchins, said the boy was mauled by pit bulls kept in a neighbor's enclosure near his home.

However, the sheriff said he could not confirm the cause of death. The investigation is continuing, the sheriff said during an afternoon press conference. A second press conference was scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday.

"The last thing I want to is be premature or non-factual," the sheriff said.

The boy's body was sent for an autopsy.

"We want to save somebody. We want to bring someone home to their family ... It's tough on everybody," the sheriff said.

O'Connor said he respected what family members had to say, but said his department would wait to conduct a complete investigation.

"It's real important due to the nature with what has happened with a toddler," the sheriff said. "There a lot of emotions, even with officers. We want to make sure we do it right."

He said "there are dog issues across the county," but he could not say yet whether the boy's death was caused by dogs.

The sheriff said his department responded quickly to the report the boy was missing and conducted an extensive search.

John Skoruppa, Kyler’s great-uncle, thanked all of the searchers and neighbors for their help.

“Even though he was only 4 years old, he was the heartbeat of the family,” Skoruppa said. “Kyler was a very happy, active youngster who loved adventure.”

Deputies kept observers away from where the boy was found near Village Lane, which is off Old Goliad Road several hundred yards from the boy's home.

Overnight and into the morning, neighbors and the boy's family members were walking the rural roads, looking inside abandoned homes and inside drainage pipes, shouting the boy's name as they go.

The fog limited visibility after daybreak Monday. Another obstacle to searchers: Tall grass everywhere they looked. Rescuers searched from the 1100 block of Old Goliad Road all the way to Farm-to-Market 236.

The boy's father, Cole Johnson, was cleaning his car, while Kyler was playing in the yard near him.

The father said he looked up, and his son was gone, Chief Deputy Terry Simons said.

Sheriff's deputies and neighbors searched the area for hours in the dark before they were pulled from the fields so search dogs could begin the hunt, Simons said.

Search dogs returned to the field shortly after 8:10 a.m. Three dogs were used in the hunt - one each from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Alamo Area Search and Rescue, and the Victoria Sheriff's Department. The fog lifted about 10:30 a.m.

Eager volunteers at the scene were handing out fliers Monday morning but asked not to go into the fields yet. Some waiting were talking quietly among themselves and checking their cell phones.

Kyler, who was dirty blond hair, was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt and underwear.

Officials from the city of Victoria's mobile command joined the sheriff's office's command post.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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