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Boy Said Froze To Death in Woods

November 2, 2000

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) _ Autopsy findings appear to end suspicion that a 2-year-old boy found dead in the Utah woods was killed by his father, authorities said.

The boy froze to death after leaving Paul Wayment’s pickup truck and wandering into the woods by himself, the Utah medical examiner said in a preliminary finding. Gage Wayment died of hypothermia, but it wasn’t known when.

``We are doing as well as can be expected right now,″ Jon Wayment, the boy’s uncle, said Wednesday night. ``There is a little bit of a relief we have found Gage’s body, but we are all deeply saddened.″

Despite the medical examiner’s finding, the father was still expected to take a lie-detector test later this week.

``He’s as anxious to clear himself from any accusations as we are to determine all the facts in this particular incident,″ Summit County Detective Rob Berry said.

The boy, whose pajamas feet were worn through, walked for miles after leaving the truck last Thursday. Authorities said he had a scratch on his face _ indicating he walked through brush _ but no other injuries.

A volunteer and his dog found the boy under several inches of snow early this week. The searcher was lost and couldn’t notify police until Tuesday, telling them he found the boy in a fetal position and carried the body for hours.

There was no explanation of how the little boy got so far into the wilderness that hundreds of searchers and dogs couldn’t find him.

Wayment, 37, told police he had parked his truck while he scouted for deer in the rugged hunting area 35 miles from Salt Lake City.

He said the boy was sleeping and strapped in his car seat when he left, but was gone when he returned about 40 minutes later.

Investigators had discounted the likelihood of a kidnapper because the private hunting area is accessible only through a gate with a combination lock. Wayment was questioned three times by police.

Wayment was awarded temporary custody of the boy in June and a review hearing was scheduled within the next two months. His former wife was stripped of custody of all six of her children from four marriages.

``I know what my brother did was not the best,″ Paul Wayment’s sister, Valerie Burke, said Monday. ``But that little boy was absolutely his whole life. He’s not the irresponsible terrible person that a lot of people are concluding.″

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