Three-year-old girl found in Canton after hectic search

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on February 2, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 4 at 6:46 PM

Missing child

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CANTON, Texas - Zoe Smith, a three-year-old girl, is safe after disappearing from her grandmother's house in rural Van Zandt County on Thursday afternoon. She  was found near a creek on FM 2909 just before 7 p.m. Thursday night, along with her dog.

Her family was relieved. 

"If anything would have happened to her, I would never forgive myself," said Zoe's grandmother, Judy Curtis. "That's my baby and I'm glad she's okay."

Police believe Zoe wandered off with Brownie, her pitbull, around 1 p.m. from her grandmother's front yard. Authorities searched the area near Twin Lakes Golf Course, about six miles south of Canton, on foot and by helicopter and search dogs were called to assist.  The search nearly lasted seven hours.

But, tears of joy and cheers filled  CR 4207 after neighbors, crews and authorities learned that Zoe was found almost two miles from where she was last seen.

"I have three heroes, those neighbors and that dog, and a wonderful little girl who was cold," said Van Zandt County Sheriff Pat Burnett.

Sheriff Burnett's three heroes are Brownie the dog, who stayed with Zoe every step of the way, as well as Jason Smith and his 12-year-old son, Ivan Vilegas, who found the girl.

Smith told News 8, he and his son decided to search their 60-acre property with spotlights and a four-wheeler after noticing a helicopter circling an area near their home. After walking more than 200 feet, they heard a faint noise in the distance. When they got closer, they shined the spotlight in the noise's direction and saw Zoe.

"Out of nowhere, the spotlight shined on her.  She had her dog with her," Smith said. "I can see she was shaking. She was cold. I had no idea she was soaking wet."

Smith and son brought her back to their home, where they called 911.  

For Smith, the discovery has shaken him in a good way.  He didn't even know Zoe was missing.  

"It's amazing," Smith said. "I do think about it. It was something that led me to her."

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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