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By Wanda Utterback
A Memorial Day weekend search for a missing 9-year-old Wardville boy came to a sad end on Monday, May 25, 2020.
The search ended shortly before 9:00 a.m. when 9-year-old Tristan Weeden was found in a pond behind his grandparents’ home where he was living. He is the son of Jered Weeden of McAlester and Annmarie Weeden.
Clyde and Carlin Weeden began searching for their grandson Saturday evening, May 23. They last saw him shortly after 7:00 p.m. as he walking by the back porch, they said. His grandfather thought he had gone to the front yard, but when he checked, Tristan was not there.
That is when the initial search began, with Clyde, in his side by side ATV, and Carlin in her car. They searched about 15 to 20 minutes, but came up empty-handed and called a family member for help.
When that search also failed, they contacted Atoka County Sheriff Tony Head to advise him of the situation.
The call to Sheriff Head started the ball rolling. Before long, emergency service organizations and volunteers from several counties began arriving in Wardville to search for the missing child.
Atoka County Emergency Management Director Derrick Mixon said he was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, when he received the call from Sheriff Head Saturday night.
Mixon contacted his assistant, Travis Mullins, who arrived at the scene about 9:00 p.m. that night. Mixon cut his vacation short and headed home.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP), Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Coal County Search and Rescue Task Force, Coal County and Coalgate Emergency Management, and other agencies were notified and began making their way to Wardville.
By Sunday, May 24th, a large number of volunteers had joined in the foot search, along with air searches conducted by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol airplane, AirMed medical helicopter, Oklahoma National Guard helicopter, McAlester Police Department helicopter and drone searches conducted by Lone Star Search and Rescue of Wylie, Texas, and Christian Ministries.
Lone Star Search and Rescue also brought search and rescue dogs, and the Pontotoc County Mounted Search and Rescue team was there on horseback.
The search got underway again on Monday at 7:00 a.m. with numerous agencies and over 100 volunteers from Atoka, Coal, Pushmataha and other counties taking part.
Tristan was located shortly before 9:00 a.m. with the help of the drone teams. His body was transported by Brown’s Funeral Service to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office in McAlester for autopsy.
OHP Trooper Tim Baker, an investigator with Troop V in McAlester, stated that the cause of death remains undetermined at this time pending results of the autopsy. He added, however, that all signs indicate the cause to be drowning.
Clyde and Carlin shared a conversation that they and Tristan had on Friday morning that they felt compelled to pass along to Tristan’s friends and loved ones.
“We were sitting there talking, and out of the clear blue, he asked us what heaven looks like,” Carlin said. “We told him it was pretty and green with hills and the streets are paved with gold.
“He just said, ‘okay,’ and then asked if Jesus was born in a barn. Clyde told him yes and then told him about Jesus having a crown of thorns on his head and nails through his hands when he was crucified on the cross.
When he asked if it hurt him, Clyde told him yes, it did, but he did it for our sins.
“Then,” Carlin continued, “he asked about Jesus’ mother Mary, and Clyde told him about Mary being there when Jesus arose and went to sit on the right hand of his Father. Tristan again just said ‘okay,’ and that was the end of the conversation.”
Clyde and Carlin also shared that Tristan prayed every night at supper and that his prayers always included, “Jesus, make me a good man.”
“We can’t do anything for him now, but we can put his voice out there,” Carlin added. “This is something we just felt like we needed to share from Tristan.”
The Weedens expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals and agencies for their support and participation in the search. They also want to thank everyone for their prayers, visits, telephone calls, food, and other acts of kindness.
The Wardville community, Wardville Fire Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Atoka County Sheriff’s Office, Atoka County Emergency Management, Coal County Sheriff’s Office, Coal County Search and Rescue Task Force, Coal County Emergency Management, Coalgate Emergency Management;
Pontotoc County Mounted Search and Rescue, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Antlers Search and Rescue, Stringtown Police Department, Caney Fire Department, McAlester Police Department, Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Christian Aid Ministries, Rapid Response Service Search and Rescue;
Daisy Fire Department, Farris Fire Department, Harmony Fire Department, Lone Star Search and Rescue, Kiowa Fire Department, Lehigh Fire Department, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry, American Red Cross, Coal County DHS, and the 100-plus volunteers.