DA Early Honors More Than 60 Law Enforcement Officers, Civilian Search Team for Finding Missing 5-Year-Old Boy in Oakham

December 5, 2023

For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott J. Croteau (508) 368-7228 or (774) 418-5706

DA Early Honors More Than 60 Law Enforcement Officers, Civilian Search Team for Finding Missing 5-Year-Old Boy in Oakham

Oakham Police Officer also Honored for Saving Family from Burning Home


OAKHAM – Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. today recognized more than 60 law enforcement officers and civilian search team members for their rapid and synchronized response that reunited a missing 5-year-old boy with his family earlier this year.

Members of the Massachusetts State Police, Oakham Police Department, Oakham Fire Department, North Brookfield Police Department, Massachusetts Environmental Police, Rutland Fire Department, Rutland Police Department, Fitchburg Police Department, Rutland Regional Emergency Communications Center, Barre Police Department, Central Massachusetts Search and Rescue Team and the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department were all presented with the District Attorney’s Team Excellence and Merit – TEAM Award – for their efforts and actions during the Feb. 20 search and rescue.

“On that February day, Owen’s family was filled with dread and fear when they realized he walked out the door. It is every parent’s nightmare,” Mr. Early said. “The law enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders and civilian search team members who responded quickly to find Owen have families too. That day, they treated Owen like he was part of their family and they brought him home safe.”

“There is, perhaps, no type of call to which a police officer, firefighter, or search volunteer responds that carries a greater urgency than a child lost in a dangerous place. With a young life possibly in the balance, the dozens of first responders and civilian searchers who raced to find Owen and his dog that February day truly epitomized the core purpose of these callings — to help the vulnerable,” said Colonel John Mawn Jr., Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. “I heartily commend all the rescuers honored today for responding to Owen’s day of need, including the 28 members of the MSP from various units, and among them, our Special Emergency Response Team members who are incredibly skilled in search and rescue operations in austere environments. All of them did outstanding work that day.”

Owen, who has autism and is non-verbal, left the home with the family dog, Tika, in the morning. He was able to wander off just before the home’s alarm was set. His older sister told her mother and father that Owen had left the family’s Edson Road home in Oakham. It was around 9:30 a.m.

With woods all around and the Ware River Watershed in the area, the family quickly rushed outside and began to search. They then called 911. Members of the Rutland Regional Emergency Communications Center spoke to Owen’s mom while also seamlessly coordinating resources to respond.

“It was incredible how fast they responded. Within a half hour, there were drones and within an hour, police lined the roads. They were amazing,” Owen’s mother, Samantha Kendall, said.

As the search continued, more and more law enforcement officials, first responders and civilian search team members arrived. As every hour went by, Owen’s family became more concerned.

But as hour three approached, an officer calmly walked over to the family as they paced outside. Owen, and the family dog, were found.

“A sense of peace came over me. For that time, him being missing was a part of me missing. The relief was 1,000 pounds coming off my shoulders,” Samantha Kendall said.

Six months before the search, Owen’s mother took him to the Oakham Police Department so they could meet the little boy who sometimes wandered off. The family picked Oakham because they knew it was safe.

A second TEAM Award was given to Oakham Police Officer Lucas Wise for his actions on Feb. 16, 2023.

The officer had finished his shift and was on his way to work at the Clark University Police Department in Worcester when he spotted smoke coming from a Rutland Road home around 11 p.m.

Officer Wise had driven by that home many times while on duty, exchanging friendly waves with the husband and wife who lived there. The officer called 911 and rushed inside.

“Flames were coming out the chimney and the house was filling up with smoke,” he said. “I didn’t think about it twice. I just went in to do my job.”

The officer got the husband and wife out of the house safely.

“It is fitting that everyone here is receiving the TEAM Award because the teamwork displayed by every agency during this rescue is the epitome of team,” Oakham Police Chief Frederick Gehring said. “Our community is a close-knit town, and we care for one another. I am extremely proud of all my officers.”

The TEAM Award was created by Mr. Early in 2019 to recognize public safety employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Contact the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office at (508) 755-8601 to nominate someone for this award.



Massachusetts State Police: Special Emergency Response Team, State Police Detectives assigned to the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, General Headquarters, K-9 Unit, Drone Unit, Brookfield Barracks, Leominster Barracks and Air Wing

Captain Keith Egan

Sergeant Joseph Petty

Sergeant Michael MacDonald

Trooper Ryan Fogarty

Trooper Kallie Koppenal

Lieutenant Matthew Simpson

Lieutenant Daniel Nicoloro

Sergeant James Frohock

Sergeant Brian Frechette

Sergeant Luis Rodriguez

Trooper John C. Thibedeau

Trooper Aimee Bodge

Trooper Jack Elliot

Trooper Taylor Powers

Trooper Benjamin Siok

Trooper Joseph Hall

Trooper Matthew Baird

Trooper Brian Doak

Trooper Richard Caron

Trooper Anthony Gabriel

Trooper Ashley Goodspeed

Trooper Rae Lambert

Trooper David Marra

Trooper Geoffrey McKeon

Trooper Liam Powers

Trooper Mark Whitcomb

Sergeant Tim Foley

Trooper Brian LeClair

Oakham Fire Department:                            

Lt. Harold Black

Lt. Russ Willett

Firefighter Cory Lemon

Firefighter Mike Chase

Firefighter Mike Donnelly

Firefighter Dom Gionet

Firefighter Jake Samaha

Oakham Police Department:

Sergeant Kevin Marderosian

Officer Peter Ribaudo

Chief Frederick Gehring

Rutland Fire Department:                                 

Captain Dean Desatell

Lieutenant Scott Kulesza

Lieutenant Matthew Benoit

Firefighter Patrick Sullivan

Firefighter Brett Lisak

Firefighter Joseph Broadmerkal

Firefighter Max Jetti

Firefighter Eric Montiverdi

Massachusetts Environmental Police:

Lieutenant Mark Brighenti

Officer Travis Huard

Officer James Makris

Officer Arthur O’Connell

Officer Dan Haynes

Central Massachusetts Search and Rescue Team (CMSART):

Amanda Cabral

Brian Daniels

Casey Simpson

Joanne Tobey

Fitchburg Police Department:                        

Officer Joshua Lambert

North Brookfield Police Department:

Lt. Ryan Daley

Rutland Regional Emergency Communications Center:

Christopher Wilder

Rachel Crompton

Tessa Gurney

Barre Police Department:                              

Officer Joshua Pease                          

Jacob Deschamps

Rutland Police Department:

Jason Citrynell

Hampden County Sheriff’s Department:

Sergeant William Kennedy and his K-9 Scout

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