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Autistic boy still missing in heat-scorched southern California

MENIFEE, Calif. – The ranks of searchers swelled but there was still no reported sign of an 11-year-old autistic boy missing since the weekend in a sun-scorched area of Southern California.

The number of volunteers and emergency workers combing the dry brown hills of Menifee rose to about 1,000 on Tuesday, and officials pledged to keep looking for Terry Dewayne Smith Jr. who was last seen at his home Saturday night.

"We pledge that we will continue this search effort until such time as circumstances dictate otherwise," Menifee mayor Scott Mann said at a news conference Tuesday. "We will continue searching. We will find Terry."

Searchers are concentrating on a 55-square mile where temperatures have topped 100 degrees every day since Smith went missing.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department and numerous other agencies, including the FBI, aided in the investigation and search of the region about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles with the help of bloodhounds, helicopters and horseback riders.

Fear for the boy's safety was heightened because he might not be carrying any food, water or his medication.

The 4-foot-8 boy with sandy brown hair and brown eyes was last seen wearing blue basketball shorts. Local children were asked to not wear blue, to help avoid confusion.

Terry was last seen when he followed his 16-year-old half-brother, who told the boy to go home, the Desert Sun reported. The boy's mother didn't realize he was missing until the next day.

Terry's mother shared details of the boy's habits on a Facebook page where the volunteer search was being organized. Without his medication, Terry may be "over sensitive and may be walking on his tiptoes," the page said.

Searchers were also instructed to call him by his nickname "Juju" because hearing his full name called out may cause him to believe he's in trouble and flee.

Terry's aunt, Tracy Armato, told KCAL-TV that searchers should "be gentle. We don't know if he'll be scared of all the searchers."

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