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Strong police work credited for finding missing Plum child

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:48 p.m.

Plum police Chief Jeff Armstrong is crediting the work of three officers for quickly finding a child who wandered from his home into the cold.

Armstrong said officers were dispatched at 4:42 a.m. Sunday to McCallister Drive for a report of a 6-year-old who went missing from his home.

The chief said the child's father, who declined to be interviewed for the story, told police he got up around 4 a.m. to find all the lights on in the house, the front door open and his son missing.

The child's father told police his son was wearing a T-shirt and pajama bottoms, Armstrong said.

The low on Sunday morning was 17 degrees, according to AccuWeather.com.

Plum officers Michael Abraham, Timothy Cerula and Nicholas Iachini first searched the home, and after not finding the boy, followed footprints in the snow that led to nearby Sardis Road, Armstrong said.

Officers found both adult footprints and a child's barefoot prints, raising a concern that the child might have been abducted, Armstrong said. It was later determined the child took a pair of his father's shoes and alternated between walking in them and walking barefoot, Armstrong said.

The Penn Hills police-dog unit and an Allegheny County police officer assisted in the search, according to the chief.

Armstrong said the footprints ended on a portion of Sardis and were picked up a short distance away by Abraham, who was the officer in charge on the shift because a sergeant was not on duty. Abraham discovered the child at 5:30 a.m., about half a mile from Sardis Road, between Renton and Old Leechburg roads, and a little over a mile from the boy's home.

“The boy was really scared and afraid,” Armstrong said.

Plum Emergency Medical Services transported the child to Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, where he was treated.

Armstrong praised his officers for finding the child within an hour after he went missing.

“Our officers did a great job,” Armstrong said. “The fact that Mike picked up the footprints again is the most critical part.”

Plum Councilman Leonard Szarmach also praised the officers' work.

“Those guys do an awesome job,” Szarmach said. “I cannot say enough good about our police force. They are dedicated, and they care.”

“It is nice when the story ends happily,” the chief said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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