Missing Florida teen found alive after 4 days by his 'neighbors,' bloodhound

Bloodhound named Putnam finds Rickey Wheeler in Flagler County

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A teen who was found alive in Flagler County four days after he was reported missing is doing well and had a Whopper from Burger King, sheriff's officials said.

Rickey Wheeler, 17, who has muscular dystrophy and was in need of medication, disappeared Friday from the Madison Green apartments, in Palm Coast.

He was found alive Tuesday about an hour after volunteers Anthony and Dawn Butrym, with a search party, found some of his clothing and shoes in a wooded area not far from City Hall.

Close to 100 volunteers, as well as law enforcement officers from several agencies in the Central Florida area, were searching for Wheeler when they found clothing he had been wearing after 4 p.m.

Search party volunteers Anthony and Dawn Butrym found 17-year-old Rickey Wheeler's clothing and shoes which led to his discovery. (Photo: Loren Korn/WKMG)

The Butryms decided to help in the search for Wheeler after Dawn Butrym saw the call for volunteers on the news. The couple were the first to sign up for the search and spoke to media a day after their critical find which led to Wheeler's discovery.

"It felt like God put us in the area we needed to be at the time," said Dawn Butrym, who found Wheeler's shoes moments after her husband discovered his clothes along a treeline.

Anthony Butrym​​​​​​​ said he was "elated and a little bit scared" when they found the items, because Wheeler wasn't wearing them.

Putnam, a bloodhound with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, looks a little camera shy with his handler Sgt. Merritt a day after finding a 17-year-old Flagler County teen who was missing for four days. (Photo: Loren Korn/WKMG)


At 6:23 p.m., a bloodhound K-9 named Putnam with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office found Wheeler in a small depression in the woods. Although he was dehydrated and covered in bug bites, he was awake and coherent as he spoke with officers and even greeted the dog that found him.

"Ricky's alive and everybody's pretty much in shock," Sheriff's Office Division Chief Paul Bovino said of how the search team was feeling after Wheeler was found.

Bovino said with all the technology used and available for a missing person's search it's amazing that the teen was found alive with only people "who could have been his neighbors and a bloodhound."

Putnam's handler, Sgt. Emmet Merritt, said Putnam was rewarded by pets from Wheeler, and later, a steak dinner.

Wheeler was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler and later to a children's hospital in Orlando for more care.

Bovino said authorities have not questioned Wheeler about why he left and don't plan to do so.

"At this time I think the only person who knows why Rickey left is Rickey," the chief said.

Wheeler's parents said in a statement the 17-year-old continues to do well. He is talking and "eating as much as he can get his hands on."


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