A missing 6-year-old autistic boy has been found safe in Canada thanks to a tipster who spotted him with his father at a Walmart, two months after he disappeared from Miami, police said.
Jorge “Jojo” Morales was initially reported missing by his mother, Yanet Leal Concepcion, on Aug. 27 after his father violated their custody agreement by failing to return him to her. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reported that he was found Sunday in Moncton, New Brunswick.
“I’m just so happy because my son is okay, I feared the worst,” Concepcion told Local10. “Every mother fears the worst and I’m just.. I can’t my body is like leaving my soul. I’m just so happy I can’t stop crying.”
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children later shared that a tipster recognized Jojo and his father, Jorge Gabriel Morales, at a Walmart in Moncton and alerted authorities.
Police suspected that Jojo was in Maine or eastern Canada after a 2006 Ford Expedition driven by Jorge Morales was found in Maine in late September. The FBI subsequently released surveillance footage from a Walgreens in nearby Houlton, which confirmed that Jojo was in Maine at some point.
Jorge Morales, 45, was arrested without incident, as was his mother, Lillian Pena Morales, 68. Both remain in police custody.
“This is another example how local, state, federal, and international law enforcement, along with the United States and State Attorney’s Office coming together for the safety of a child and will continue to work together to fight the greater evil,” Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said in a statement.
Concepcion told 7News that Jojo is relatively unaware of the reality of what happened to him.
“He asked me where I have been, because he doesn’t know, he’s very unaware to what’s going on,” she explained to the outlet, describing the moment she finally got to speak to her son on the phone. “Thankfully, it’s a blessing in disguise that he is living with autism because he thought he was on vacation, and I told him the same.”
Her own two-month ordeal, however, has been a nightmare, with “constant sadness…very little sleep, having trouble eating, just constantly praying, constantly thinking that something bad was going to happen to him.”
Concepcion told 7News that she expected to be reunited with Jojo on Monday night or early Tuesday. He will be escorted back to Florida by a Canadian social worker.
“We are forever grateful [for the person who called the police],” she said. “It takes courage to say something, and I know it does, and I hope they know that, thanks to that person, I’m going to see my son again.”
The Miami-Dade Police and the RCMP could not immediately be reached for comment.