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Published July 18, 2013, 08:50 PM

Officials say missing Wisconsin toddler was found in trunk of car

Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson said a law enforcement officer found the body of Isaiah Theis shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday. The body was found in the trunk of a locked vehicle near the rural Centuria residence in northwest Wisconsin where the boy lived.

CENTURIA, Wis. — A 2-year-old Wisconsin boy missing since Tuesday night has been found dead in the trunk of a car.

Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson said a law enforcement officer found the body of Isaiah Theis shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday. The body was found in the trunk of a locked vehicle near the rural Centuria residence in northwest Wisconsin where the boy lived.

According to a press release from the Polk County Sheriff's office, the area around the vehicle had been searched several times, but searchers were advised that the vehicle had been locked prior to Isaiah's disappearance and it was “extremely unlikely” that the boy could be in the vehicle.

The discovery came about a half-hour after hundreds of volunteers were told to go home for the night, as authorities continued looking. About 10 p.m. the owner of the car arrived to remove it. Prior to the owner leaving with the car, a deputy opened the trunk and found the body.

Johnson said the death of an “otherwise healthy 2-year-old boy requires a complete and thorough investigation as to any possible cause, whether that cause is accidental or criminal.”

Johnson indicated that the investigation is in its early stages and the “cause and manner of death is unknown.”

A full autopsy has been requested. Johnson said he would not speculate as to the cause of death until the autopsy is completed.

The scene was processed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice with the assistance of the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the Polk County Medical Examiner's office. The investigation is being handled by the Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the Polk County Medical Examiner's office.

Isaiah was last seen alive while playing with his brother at their farmhouse near Centuria. Family members called 911 as soon as they discovered that Isaiah had wandered off. The child’s father is Justin Theis.

About 2,450 volunteers braved a nearly 100-degree heat index to help rescuers in Wednesday’s search, according to the sheriff's office.

"I couldn't be more impressed by the compassion of the people living in this area," Johnson said. "Thank you to everyone that came to assist in the search, that provided food, water and other supplies, or who assisted in many other ways to support this enormous effort."

St. Croix County dispatch records indicate 19 officers from the sheriff's department assisted in search efforts on Wednesday.

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