IDAHO COUNTY, Idaho — A missing Georgia boy and the father who took him on the run have been found after officials say they spent more than a week in Idaho's rugged backcountry.
Gabriel Daugherty, 11, was reported missing from the town of LaGrange, Georgia southwest of Atlanta on April 28. Authorities in Georgia said the boy was likely with his father, 37-year-old Addam Perry A. Daugherty.
Daugherty had shared custody of his son, and had told the boy's mother he was taking Gabriel on a trip to a Georgia amusement park.
Instead, Idaho County Chief Deputy Brian Hewson said, the pair took off, heading north to Idaho. The father and son abandoned their rental car along Highway 12 near the Canyon Creek Trailhead in the Clearwater National Forest, and walked into the woods.
Idaho State Police troopers spotted the car there on May 4. Six days later, when the car had not moved, according to the Idaho County Sheriff's Office, ISP ran the plates and ultimately returned it to the rental company.
It was soon after that officials learned the abandoned car was connected to the Daughterys' disappearance.
Working with Idaho State Police, Idaho Fish and Game, and the Forest Service, the sheriff's office launched a search for the father and son, sending up drones over the dense forest and combing the area on foot.
Deputies reached the site where the pair had been camping on Thursday and surrounded their small tent. Addam Daugherty was taken into custody, while Gabriel was taken to a hospital for observation.
Hewson said that the father was shocked to see that law enforcement had caught up to them.
"He thought he was in the middle of the wilderness and would never be found," he said.
Investigators believe that Addam Daugherty, who works as a long-haul trucker, had driven the long east-west Highway 12 route through Idaho previously, and selected the area for its remoteness.
"It was clear he had this planned," he said.
In fact, the Daughertys were just 2.5 miles from the highway, but "two and a half miles is a ways in that country," Hewson said.
Hewson said the pair were not equipped for the harsh conditions in the backcountry.
"They were really unprepared: food, clothing, sleeping arrangements," Hewson said.
The father and son's clothes got damp, and so did their small nylon tent. Conditions were too wet to start a fire, and by the time deputies reached their camp, the Daughertys' situation was getting increasingly dire, Hewson said.
"They were starting to eat local plant life, and snails, and little bugs when they found them," Hewson said. "[Gabriel] was feeling very weak and sick. He mentioned he was glad we showed up when we did."
Addam Daugherty refused medical care, and was taken to the Idaho County Jail. Hewson drove Gabriel, who he described as "very pleasant, very sweet" to Syringa Hospital where he could be treated for dehydration and checked out.
"The first thing I wanted to do was to stop and get him a cheeseburger and french fries," Hewson said, but medical personnel advised him to take the boy straight to the hospital instead.
Both Gabriel and his father and doing well, Hewson said. The 11-year-old is currently still hospitalized and in the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. He is expected to be returned to his mother in Georgia following a shelter care hearing.
Addam Daugherty remains held on the Georgia warrant for non-custodial parent abduction.
Hewson praised the cooperation between agencies and the doggedness of the trackers who ultimately made it to the Daughertys' camp. In the vast national forest, searches can sometimes stretch on for multiple days, he noted.
"Things would have become pretty desperate for them," he said of the father and son. "It turned out good."
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