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.
Tonight, Bentley is resting safe and sound inside his aunt’s house with only a sprained ankle.
According to his aunt and legal guardian April Poage, he ran away because he wanted to stay home and play video games instead of go to school that day.
“No one expected Xbox to be the reason he tried to skip out on school and not come home,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it really was the Xbox because my mind was going a million places – like is there something at school? Maybe somebody is bullying him and he just hadn’t told us about it?”
Bentley left for the school bus on Tuesday morning, but instead, a neighbor saw him drop his backpack and run into the woods near his home. Bentley’s aunt says his plan was to skip school and play video games all day, but he saw the neighbor and got scared, thinking he would get caught. He ran off into the woods – but things took a scary turn when he got lost.
The FBI , local law enforcement and volunteers began the search, sparking an Amber Alert about 12 hours later.
Sky 5 flew over the search just before noon as he was reunited with his mom and dad. He was found safe just about 2 miles away from home.
His parents say they are extremely grateful for everyone willing to come out and help search for Bentley – as well as those who sent up prayers while he was missing.
Survived freezing temperatures, cold rain by hiding in a camper
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
Caught on camera: 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.
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.