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Missing special-needs student, David Allen Soto, found alive in Wildomar

An agonizing wait for a mother is over. Her special-needs son was found after nearly four days in the wilderness.
November 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
An agonizing wait for a mother is over. Her special-needs son was found safe after nearly four days in the wilderness.

David Allen Soto, had been missing since Tuesday at 8 a.m. when he was seen leaving Elsinore High School. The 18-year-old, who has autism and schizophrenia, was taken by ambulance to be checked out after he was finally found early Friday afternoon.

"I am so happy, I'm so beyond words, I'm so grateful, and I'm so happy to the public because it was a person here who saw him," said mother Anna Espinoza.

That person was Amandia Smith. She spotted Soto on Tuesday, the same day the teen vanished.

"I've never seen somebody go into that field, so it just made me feel odd, and he just looked nervous and scared like he didn't know where he was at," Smith said.

She thought nothing of it until Thursday night.

"I was watching the 11 o'clock Channel 7 News, and I was watching it, and I saw the story, and I rewinded it and I watched it again," Smith said.

After making the connection, Smith contacted the sheriff's department. Detectives were brought to a field, where they found shoe impressions that matched Soto's tennis shoes. The trail led into the mountains.

"The search team had already made it up into the mountains about a quarter-mile to a half-mile when the search dog they were with picked up on the scent and started following it off into the hills," said Lt. Zach Hall of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Soto was thirsty and hungry, but otherwise in good shape. For his family who waited as rescuers brought him down the mountain, their nightmare was finally over.


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