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Missing NH boy, 9, found asleep in neighbor's home

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / October 18, 2011

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HAMPSTEAD, N.H.—A 9-year-old boy missing for nearly 30 hours was found Tuesday sleeping peacefully in a neighbor's home.

The homeowners discovered Devin Frenette around 6:30 p.m. asleep in a bed in their Hampstead home, which is about 1,000 feet from his family's home, investigators said.

The boy had last been seen playing in the yard of his home Monday afternoon. His disappearance prompted a massive search by hundreds of volunteers and officers, dogs and a state police helicopter equipped with night vision gear.

Devin, who's just 3-foot-6, and his parents made a brief appearance before the media gathered in front of their home to thank the officials and volunteers who combed woods, swamplands and a nearby gravel pit and quarry looking for him. Devin wrapped his arms around his mother's neck as she held him. His parents said no words can express their joy or gratitude at having him back.

"Thank you so much," mother Kerrilyn Frenette said tearfully.

As the family returned to its house, Devin high-fived a state trooper.

Neighbors say Mark and Kerrilyn Frenette have three adult sons and adopted Devin and his older sister when Devin was 2. Neighbor Paula Smith said that her sons played with Devin's older brothers when they were young and that Devin and his sister often played outside.

"He's the cutest little thing you'll ever see," she said. "He's a little guy."

The Frenettes' home is in a neighborhood of similarly styled contemporary houses where children frequently are out on bikes or skateboards, neighbors say. Tuesday it was teeming with police and reporters.

Devin had wandered from his home in May but was found within hours several miles away.

Barely two hours before Devin's discovery, Fish and Game Department Capt. John Wimsatt had expressed optimism and urged townspeople to search garages, sheds and even cars on their properties. But Devin apparently chose a far more comfortable option.

Wimsatt confirmed he was in a bed, asleep, when his neighbors arrived home. He said he did not know how long the boy had been there.

Imploring the media not to question the family during its brief appearance, Wimsatt said Devin and his family had been through "a traumatic ordeal."

The search for Devin prompted an outpouring of community support and volunteers. It also stoked fear and anxiety in the small community near the Massachusetts border, 40 miles north of Boston.

More than 100 volunteers lined up at a nearby commuter lot to assist in the search and were taken by bus in small groups to specific areas throughout the day.

Behind the scenes, the search had at least one grim moment.

Lani Venturi, of Newton, was part of a 14-member search group that found a child's sneaker in woods about 100 yards from Devin's house early Tuesday afternoon. She said the group froze in place for about an hour until the sneaker could be shown to Devin's parents. She said their search resumed when they got word that it wasn't his.

Before the neighbors found Devin in their home, there were rumors he had been seen here or there. But Wimsatt said there hadn't been any credible sighting.

"I'm sure he's scared he's going to be in trouble," Wimsatt said two hours before the boy was found.