Update: Missing NC 4-year-old Raul Johnson died of accidental drowning, sheriff says

Raul Gonzalez Johnson
Raul Gonzalez Johnson NCDPS

Four-year-old Raul Gonzalex Johnson accidentally drowned in a pond near his Scotland County home, the sheriff confirmed on Tuesday.

“At this time it appears to be accidental,” Scotland County Sheriff Ralph E. Kersey said at a press conference Saturday evening. “We will continue the investigation until we have the answers to what happened to this little boy.”

On Tuesday, Kersey confirmed that Raul died of drowning. His body showed no evidence of physical abuse, Kersey said, and no foul play is suspected in his death.

Kersey asked Scotland County to do what it does best at times like this: “Come together.”

“I just don’t know what to feel,” Kersey said. “We were hoping for the best, and that’s just not what happened here.”

The FBI announced a body was found about 3 p.m. Saturday, at the time a press briefing was to be held. The body, discovered about 1:45 p.m. in a pond off Peabridge Road in Laurinburg, still needs to be examined to confirm the identity and cause of death, the statement said.

Earlier on Saturday, investigators said they were working with a local landowner whose pond they wanted to drain in the search for Raul, three days after he went missing. The draining process began about 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The Amber Alert issued for Raul said the boy was last seen on Village Drive, walking toward Crestline Road in Laurinburg. A family member reported Raul missing about midday Wednesday, according to the FBI, which joined the search Friday.

Scotland County Sheriff Ralph E. Kersey said he wanted to drain the pond after a search by a dive team came up empty Thursday. The pond has been a top area of interest since three separate K9 units “took the same course” from Raul’s home to the pond, Kersey said.

“We’re working to make arrangements to drain that pond to be 100 percent certain that Raul is not in there,” Jason Kaplan, a supervisory special agent with the FBI, said Friday afternoon.

Raul Gonzalez Johnson NCDPS

The FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, a group of experts in the field of missing children, has assisted in the search.

Law enforcement officers blocked local roads to check IDs, and more than a dozen ground search teams made up of emergency responders participated. About 150 responders were on hand Saturday morning, covering the area around Raul’s home.

“We greatly appreciate the thoughts and prayers for this little boy,” Kersey said Friday.

On Thursday night, Kersey said crews were transitioning from search and rescue to an “investigative approach,” adding that the SBI and FBI were joining the search.

Asked Friday whether the investigation had ruled out foul play, Kersey said his statement from Thursday had not changed. “Raul is still considered missing … and that’s where we are at this moment,” Kersey said.

Kersey said investigators have looked at “every type of situation,” including whether the boy wandered off, was taken by someone or if he was moved by a family member.

Anyone with information regarding Raul is asked to call the Scotland County Sheriff`s Office at 910-276-3385, or call 911.