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Remains found at California home of missing autistic boy

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Investigators found remains on Wednesday at the home of an autistic 11-year-old California boy who became the subject of an intense manhunt this week after he was reported missing, and were trying to determine if they were human, police said.

Terry Smith was reported missing from his home in Menifee, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, by his mother on Sunday morning, prompting a search by authorities using helicopters and bloodhounds and assisted by volunteers from the community.

The remains were discovered by investigators who went to the boy's home early on Wednesday, armed with a search warrant, said Deputy Alberto Martinez, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Martinez said he had no immediate information on the condition of the remains or where at the house they were found. It was not immediately clear what prompted investigators to seek the search warrant.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper reported that forensic investigators could be seen digging in the back yard, and local television showed sheriff's deputies working under canopies set up there.

If an initial examination establishes that the remains are human, they will be sent to the Riverside County Coroner for identification, autopsy and further analysis, Martinez said.

Martinez said the boy was last seen between 7:30 and 9 p.m. on Saturday night by his older brother and was reported missing by his mother when she didn't find him in bed the following morning.

There have been no arrests in connection with the disappearance, and sheriff's officials say the family has cooperated in the investigation.

A statement posted on the city of Menifee's website on Tuesday said that more than 1,000 citizen volunteers had helped search for Terry Smith and that local businesses had donated food and water.

"The Menifee community has come together despite these tough weather conditions with a huge outpouring of time, resources and support to help bring Terry home," Mayor Scott Mann said in the statement.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Chris Reese)

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