A 10-year-old boy who was autistic and non-verbal wandered from his northwest Marion County home sometime Friday morning and drowned in a neighbor’s murky swimming pool, according to officials.
Bernard C. Latimore’s body was found in the deep end of an enclosed, in-ground swimming pool at 5920 N.W. 57th Court, just across the street from his family’s home at 5951 N.W. 57th Court.
The homes are in the Ocala Park Estates subdivision, which is west of Northwest 44th Avenue, north of U.S. 27 and south of County Road 326.
The boy’s mother, Katese Richardson, gathered at the drowning scene with the boy’s father and other family members and friends. She asked to see her son’s body before it was taken away by the Medical Examiner’s Office.
The wish was granted. After seeing her son, Richardson was so overcome with grief that she had to be taken home. Within minutes, an ambulance took her to West Marion Regional Medical Center for observation.
Sheriff’s deputies said they received a call from Richardson at 10:12 a.m. saying her son was missing. Officials say the woman was at work, and her 16-year-old son was caring for Bernard.
The older boy, according to deputies, had been asleep. He woke, noticed his brother was missing, then called his mother.
With assistance from the Air Unit and canines, deputies searched the area and looked for Bernard. They also activated a reverse 911 system, which alerted all neighbors and asked them to help locate the boy.
Officials expanded the search by contacting the Department of Corrections for their bloodhound dogs. The dogs sniffed the boy’s backpack and sneakers to get a scent.
At approximately 11:30 a.m., Katie Wyns, who lives at 5920 N.W. 57th Court, came home and told deputies she noticed a pink pillow in her pool.
Authorities say Bernard was known to carry around the pink pillow. They immediately searched the pool, where they found him in the deep end.
Deputies said the pool, which was covered with algae, was roughly 7 feet to 8 feet deep.
Authorities do not suspect foul play, and believe the child left his home and went to the neighbor’s home.
“He was a real smart boy who loved to play,” said Virgil Moore, one of the boy’s uncles.
Moore said he received the call about his nephew’s disappearance around 10 a.m. and joined the search. He said they looked in the nearby wooded area and along the streets.
Another relative, Lillie Sams, Bernard’s cousin, said “nobody was a stranger” to Bernard.
Sams said he joined the search, hoping they would find him playing somewhere.
“He liked to hug you. He was just a friendly little boy,” she said.
Sams and Moore said Bernard loved music and going to church.
They say he attended Roslyn Murray Home Day Care.
The relatives said Bernard normally had a pillow or a toy with him.
Beverly Standridge, a crisis-intervention specialist for the Sheriff’s Office, said the support the family received for searching for Bernard “was amazing.” She said the neighborhood came out in droves, looking for Bernard.