WENDELL, N.C. — Bentley Stancil, 9, spent the night in an RV and even figured out how to feed himself after running away Tuesday morning in Wendell. The search for Bentley ended in happy tears just before noon on Wednesday.
His father, Brandon Stancil, described the reunion with his son as “the best thing in the world” and on par with the moment the child was born.
Bentley left for the school bus to Carver Elementary on Tuesday morning but instead was seen running into the woods near his home. The FBI joined local law enforcement and volunteers in the search for the boy, which sparked an Amber Alert.
A joyful family reunion
“He jumped about 10 feet into my arms,” Brandon Stancil said about the reunion with his son. “I’m ecstatic. I’m just thankful that he’s safe, he’s sound, he’s not hurt and he’s alright.”
The father said after searching and worrying through the night, he took off running when he heard and saw helicopters circling over the area where Bentley was found.
Searchers said they identified Bentley by his red eyeglass frames. He appeared to be unharmed but was visibly emotional as he reunited with his family.
Bentley’s sisters, Harmony Stancil and Jaden Hutchinson, said they were worried for their brother and relieved he was safe.
“I’ll definitely be hanging out with him more often and showing him more love,” Hutchinston said.
“It’s a reminder to hold your family close,” Harmony Stancil added.
Hid in a camper from the cold
Surveillance images showed the Bentley stopped at a Hardee’s about two miles from his home on Tuesday morning. Mother Kayla Stancil credited her son’s resourcefulness with keeping him safe from the cold when temperatures dropped into the 30s.
“He found an RV to stay in, and it had power, so he stayed warm, didn’t get wet all night,” Brandon Stancil said of his son.
According to his parents and Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker, Bentley fell asleep in the camper and was found there Wednesday morning.
“He had been hiding in a camper in an area that we had been through, and then we got some more information and went back through,” said Wake Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Gurganus.
Bentley’s parents said he knew about the risk of hypothermia because of a book he had read, and that he found food to eat and a microwave to warm it up inside the RV. It was not immediately clear to whom the camper belonged.
WRAL News spoke with a woman who owns the property where Bentley was found on Marshburn Road in Wendell. She was not at that house during the search and only learned about the incident after Bentley was found.
Bentley’s father thanked the dozens who helped in the search, including law enforcement officers and neighbors.
“It’s amazing how people came together,” he said. “I just want to tell everybody thank you.”
Neither parent was clear on what prompted Bentley to run away.
“That’s the million-dollar question is why,” Brandon Stancil said.
After a few hugs and a warmup inside the Wendell fire station, the child was taken by ambulance to a hospital to be checked out. It was found that he had a sprained ankle but no other injuries.
“He’s home now, and he’s eating, and he’s gonna get plenty of rest because he’s tired,” Kayla Stancil told WRAL News.
His father said the main goal is to find out what he was thinking to see what they can do to help.