Missing boy with autism found dead in neighbor’s pond

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HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- The five-year old boy with autism who walked away from his house along 7 Highway south of Harrisonville at about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday was later found dead.

On Tuesday evening FOX 4's Mary Pulley confirmed from the scene that Tony Eugene “Gene” Cory-Ferguson was found dead in a neighbor's pond in about five feet of water.

Tony Eugene “Gene” Cory-Ferguson

Tony Eugene “Gene” Cory-Ferguson

The tragic discovery ended an exhaustive search for the five-year-old. Acres of corn close to six-feet high, ditches and local shops were just a few places that searchers combed through looking for him. Civilian volunteers even used their personal planes to search high above the sky. They were initially urged to search with caution.

"I've been told with all the activity he may be frightened and be may be somewhere he can see us, and is just very frightened to come out," Captain Mitch Phillips with Cass County Sheriff's Office said during the search.

Sadly, that wasn't the case.  A Kansas City police helicopter and the Missouri Highway Patrol, Garden City Police and the Cass County Sheriff Department were all involved in the search for the missing little boy. Water rescuers joined in on the search soon after and found Gene in the pond.

It's unknown how long since the searching began that he'd been in there, but crews think it's possible he was there all along.

"None of our search and rescue dogs, none of our people located signs, trails, or tracks of him through the corn fields and the bean field or anything like that," Lieutenant Kevin Tieman with the Cass County Sheriff's Department said.

Gene had gone missing from his home several times before, but was always found in a matter of minutes. Deputies say he lived with his grandparents who had adopted him. They were too upset to speak Tuesday, but FOX 4 heard from Gene's mother before he was recovered, saying she was desperate to find him safe.

"The loss of a child is not easy for anybody, at this point we just want to make sure we do everything to help the family we can," Lt. Tieman said.

Earlier coverage:

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  • Ashley

    I drove threw a few times on 7. Hoping to see him. Even though we weren’t told we could. This isn’t like us. I went home and read this. I truly thought he’d be ok. I don’t know why Genes story hurts me so much and even haunted my sleep last night. I got my first real experience with loss in April on the 8th also. My mom suddenly died. I will always remember Gene. Poor baby boy. My husband had to console my crying last night and I still am. I have no right because I never knew him and yet I felt like I had. I Am sorry to his mommy and grandparents. I ache with you . With much prayers, a stranger.

  • Kristine

    I couldn’t even bring myself to even watch the video. I’m just in tears. Can hardly see my monitor.

    While on the subject, and especially with summertime upon us, please remember that this sort of thing occurs in pools, as well. No excuse for that whatsoever. None. Pool drownings are 100% preventable. Never swim alone, at any age. If you can’t swim, wear a life jacket or “floaties.”. Have a buoyant item close by to throw in the water should someone need help. Even an empty ice chest or empty bleach bottle will do. And pools must be surrounded by tall fences with locked gates! It’s often the law, and that’s for good reason. If someone can afford a pool, they can afford a proper locked fence!

    People can go ahead and tell me not to judge — I don’t care. I have a mentally ill 13 year-old myself, and I know how hard it is to remain constantly vigilant. When someone reminds me to be ultra cautious, I don’t see them as the Acme Judgement Company; I see them as a caring, concerned person. If my words save one life — even that of an animal!l — they will have been WELL WORTH IT.

    All that said, I do realize this was a pond drowning, and thus much more difficult to prevent. Just a tragedy all the way around. Bless this little guy and everyone who loves him.

  • leiaTua

    Sry 4 ur lost my love michael angelo Frankie , send my loves n confers n prayers 2 the families n especially my angle shanghai hang in their girl love u n love u the most michael Angelo F , im their with u in spirits,hug ur niece wen u need a shoulder 2 cry on her shoulders r my shoulders in spirits 2 lean on, I love u all families n god may be with u all, RIP my angle jr Angelo:-* with loves n confers n prayers ,, form leia n the families.

  • Alice Angleton

    I’m his half sister. I wanted to see what people said about his death, so I asked my birth mother (also his birth mother) what he looked like, and she found this article about his death. It is all a lie. His grandparents did not adopt him, they had stolen him from my mom. They also DID NOT talk to his birth mother, instead, probably talked to his birth father’s girlfriend. My mother, his mother, also didn’t even know that he had died, until a year after his death. They did not try to contact his real mom about it. I was there the day she found out, and she was heart-broken. If anyone is to come across this comment, you probably won’t believe me. I just want people to know the truth. I don’t even care if you don’t believe me it just makes me mad to read all these lies that his father and his grandparents came up with.