'Miraculously defied all odds': Mother of missing toddler near Kingston, Ont. thanks searchers, provides update on Jude

The mother of a three-year-old boy who spent three days in the woods north of Kingston, Ont. is praising the "unrelenting dedication' of OPP search teams, adding her son "miraculously defied all odds."

Katherine Leyton issued a statement on Twitter Thursday, one day after Jude Leyton was found by a member of the OPP Emergency Response Team searching the woods in South Frontenac.

"We can't begin to express how we feel to have our incredible, resilient son Jude back safe in our arms. Our entire extended family is beyond elated after what was undoubtedly the worst experience of our lives," said Katherine Leyton.

"Jude was returned to us due to the unrelenting dedication and perseverance of the OPP’s Search and Rescue Ground, Air, and Underwater teams and tireless effort of community volunteer searchers, firefighters and paramedics."

Jude was returned to us due to the unrelenting dedication and perseverance of the OPP’s Search and Rescue Ground, Air, and Underwater teams and tireless effort of community volunteer searchers, firefighters and paramedics.

— Katherine Leyton (@Kat_leyton) April 1, 2021

Jude Leyton went missing Sunday morning at his family's fishing resort on Canoe Lake Road near Westport, Ont.

Ontario Provincial Police, including helicopter, marine units and volunteer search and rescue teams spent three days searching the wooded area for the toddler.

On Friday, Chris Fisher, the toddler's grandfather, said in an interview with CTV News Ottawa it was a difficult time for the family.

"Terrible! Nobody got any sleep. And you know, it was just, you wake up and you think this is just a dream, right? I’ve had a bad dream," Fisher said. "And we still haven’t found him."

Fisher owns the 200-acre fishing retreat Jude was visiting when he went missing. He says he was in a shed on the property with the toddler when in a split second he was gone.

Fisher searched around, and became concerned.

"So I went up to the garage and thought he was up with his dad up there but he wasn’t. And that's when we became alarmed," said Fisher. "Very traumatic for any grandparent."

Fisher says within "five minutes" they knew they had to call 911.

"It was everybody’s worst nightmare."

Just after 3 p.m. Wednesday, a four-person search team found Jude about a kilometre away from the cottage. OPP Const. Scott McNames told CTV News Ottawa Thursday that he was tagging a tree when he saw the boy's distinctive blue jacket a short distance away.

"I said to (Const. Greg Verney), 'There’s something blue up there,' and he ran up ahead, and I came up beside him and he said, 'it’s him,'" said McNames.

Fisher said the OPP scoured the area, leaving no stone unturned.

"I was actually on a phone call with somebody, and I heard a policeman, OPP officer come up and I didn’t believe what I was hearing and I just said, 'Uh, I gotta go.' I don’t even know who I was talking to," Fisher laughed.

"Such a shock when he was found alive. I mean. How can that possibly be? You know?"

Still, Fisher said he never gave up that last bit of hope, even as the days dragged on with rainy, cold weather.

Officers say Leyton was thirsty when found. He was transported to Kingston General Hospital for assessment by doctors.

McNames says officers never gave up hope they would find Jude alive, adding the moment the toddler was reunited with his parents stands out in his mind.

"They came down the trail. They came and met us before we got back to the cottage. And yeah, it was nice to give him to his mom and dad. Very nice moment," McNames says.

"Needless to say, they were very happy. We all were."

That too is something Fisher says he’ll never forget. 

"I stroked his hair, you know. It was just nice to physically touch him."

pic.twitter.com/Um5OVvA0SB

— Katherine Leyton (@Kat_leyton) April 1, 2021

Katherine Leyton said Jude is recovering well at hospital, posting photos of the three-year-old eating and sleeping.

"Our sweet Jude miraculously defied all odds and we are overwhelmed by and profoundly grateful for the thoughts, prayers, and unwavering hope from everyone touched by his loss and recovery," said Leyton.

"Thank you all - we owe you everything."

"I think this whole ordeal has brought us very much closer together. Because you just have to stay together," said Fisher.

Jude is recovering well @KingstonHSC Every nurse and doctor who has treated Jude here has been incredible.@OPP_ER@OPP_COMM_ER

— Katherine Leyton (@Kat_leyton) April 1, 2021