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July 8, 2013

Missing special needs boy found in Utica

Mistaken by bus driver for child's brother, police say

COOPERSTOWN — A missing person’s search for a young boy in Cooperstown turned out to be a case of mistaken identity when the boy was found Monday afternoon in Utica.

Seven-year-old Mutume Waddimba was found “safe and sound” at the Utica Cerebral Palsy Center after a bus driver thought she was picking up his 5-year-old brother, Titus, police said.

“We got a tip at 12:53 p.m. that maybe the boys got mixed up and he got on the bus by mistake. We followed up and it was confirmed at 1:17 p.m.,” Cooperstown Police Chief Mike Covert said. “The family has only lived there a week. The bus driver knew she was supposed to stop at their house. She knew she was supposed to pick up a small boy, but she didn’t know she was picking up the wrong boy.”

Both Mutume and Titus were described as non-verbal, special-needs children. In addition, at various points during the day, Mutume was described as a 5-year-old; even his mother, Prisca, apparently gave the police his wrong date of birth, telling them that Mutume was born Nov. 17, 2008, and Titus was born Nov. 24, 2008. Mutume was apparently born in 2005, Covert said.

After it was confirmed that Mutume was in Utica, the search was called off and state police took Prisca and the boys’ father, Dr. Anthony Waddimba, to get their child.

Dr. Waddimba works at Bassett Medical Center.

The ordeal began just after 10 a.m. when Prisca went to check on Mutume, whom she thought was playing in the basement of the family’s home on Glen Avenue. She reported him missing at 10:18 a.m.

Within 20 minutes police and firefighters were on the scene beginning a search-and-rescue that ended up lasting three hours. In addition to the Cooperstown police and fire departments, New York State Police and the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department responded. By 11 a.m. they had made an initial search of side streets and along a fast-flowing creek that takes rain water run-off to the Susquehanna River.

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