Hundreds of people entered a forest in Eastern Texas. This was no hike or for entertainment, however. These people were searing for Ezra Parrish, a three-year-old boy who had been missing for almost an entire day.
It seemed more and more hopeless, but then one of the dogs picked up a scent.
Gloria Cooper was at Dave & Buster’s restaurant in Houston, Texas with her husband Jeremy. Her three-year-old son Ezra was her son from a previous relationship. Ezra’s father had planned a camping trip 60 miles away.
What none of them knew was that this trip would change their lives forever.
Ezra’s biological father had taken the boy and his siblings to Sam Houston National Forest before. The forest is about an hour north of Houston and it is one of the most popular destinations for campers as it is one of only four national forests in the state.
The Nightmare Begins
The boy’s father had taken the children to Stubblefield Lake. This was a remote area off Forest Road 208. However, what they thought would be a nice adventure would soon turn into their absolute worst nightmare.
It all started when Ezra wandered off into the forest by himself.
Cry For Help
It was 3 P.M. when the New Waverly Fire Department received a heart-wrenching phone call. Ezra’s family called them in a panic as soon as they realized that he was missing. Nobody knew where the boy had gone.
To make matters worse, the temperature was around 90 °F.
Rescuers had spent an entire afternoon looking for the missing boy but still there was no sign of him. After hours of searching, someone finally reached out to Gloria in Huston. They had to relay a message that no mother wants to hear.
Gloria didn’t recognize the number calling her but something compelled her to answer it. That’s when the person on the other end of the call delivered the horrifying news that her three-year-old son had gone missing.
Worst of all, night was falling.
Gloria couldn’t believe that it took so long for someone to tell her about what was going on. Jeremy and Gloria immediately headed to Stubblefield Lake. While they were driving Gloria called all her family members asking them for help.
It was all hands on deck.
Gloria’s sister and her niece, Lalaine, lived in California but they were determined to help. The grabbed the first flight they could to Huston. They had to help Gloria. As soon as they landed they rushed to where the search was going.
When they finally arrived the search was still going.
Calling For Backup
The search continued throughout the night. By 1:00 a.m. the next morning, though, people were growing tired. However, there was still no sign of Ezra – and everyone knew that time was running out. Desperate, the Chief of the New Waverly Fire Department, Jason Slot, sent a call out for additional resources.
Luckily, the Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team, or TXEQ, were on hand to respond. An organization of some 600 volunteers, TXEQ are often called in to assist authorities in Texas and nationwide with locating missing people.
And so in the early hours of May 28, 2017, member Jan Tipps sent out a request for TXEQ volunteers to join the search. Despite the hour, they responded, and by 4:30 a.m. a group had gathered at the campsite. Together, they began searching the forest for clues.
“It was very eerie hearing family members out in the woods calling Ezra’s name in the dark,” volunteer David White wrote later on the TXEQ blog. But despite everyone’s best efforts, Ezra still hadn’t been found as the sun rose.
By now, the fire department and TXEQ had been joined by ever growing numbers of volunteers. Some were experienced rescuers who knew the terrain, such as the Sam Houston Trails Coalition, while others were simply concerned citizens who had heard about Ezra and wanted to help.
Overall, some 200 people combed an area covering four miles for any sign of the missing boy. Some used machetes to cut through the undergrowth; others drove quad bikes along the trails, their eyes peeled for Ezra along the way; others still brought dogs to help them sniff out any clues.