A Toddler Was Lost In The Woods For 24 Hours. A Volunteer Trusted His Gut And Found Him

February 25, 2023

A 2-year-old boy was lost in the woods in Brooksville, Florida, for 24 hours.

A volunteer trusted his gut and found him.

missing toddler found florida
Roy and JJ / Hernando County Sheriff's Office

62-year-old Roy Link came to an open field and was met with a choice — two wooded areas with a small clearing in between. Link said he decided on intuition alone and chose the woods on his left.

Immediately after entering the forest he heard the first whimper. As it got louder, he spotted him, about 100 feet away.

Joshua "JJ" Rowland was standing barefoot in the brush, crying for his mother.

"We're going to Mama," Link, a veteran Marine, recalled telling him.

JJ was discovered about 2 miles north of his home. A map provided by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office shows the location.

missing boy rescued
Hernando County Sheriff's Office

JJ's mother told investigators Thursday that she and her child were napping around 9:30 a.m. When she woke up, the toddler was missing. She spent around an hour looking for him before alerting law enforcement.

As of Friday, hundreds of local volunteers had been helping in the search for JJ.


Link said he had planned on fishing Friday morning, but that changed when his wife told him the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office was looking for volunteers to search for JJ.

And it was about 15 minutes before finding JJ that Link prayed to God the boy would be found alive.

"That long period — everybody starts thinking the worst, and it's hard not to. It's like how can all these people and all these deputies searched all this and not find a clue?" Link told the Tampa Bay Times in a phone interview. "You know all that bad stuff starts going through your mind, but then finding him healthy and alive, it's just … wow."

On Friday afternoon, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office posted a heartfelt thank-you message to all of the people who aided in finding JJ.

"Sheriff Al Nienhuis and the men and women of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office would like to THANK each and every person who came out to volunteer, shared our numerous social media posts, and/or prayed for us and/or for the safety of little JJ.

We would also like to THANK the numerous thoughtful and generous folks who dropped off water, Gatorade, coffee, donuts, sandwiches, burgers, and the millions of snacks. THANK YOU. All of us are overwhelmed by the support we received from our own citizens, as well as those from other counties and states. THANK YOU!

We would also like to THANK our media partners and friends for broadcasting the information on every newscast , radio show, and/or on line. THANK YOU!

Our prayers were answered at 10:42 this morning. Thank you all for being a part of this success story."

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