WARNER ROBINS -- In the first four hours that Kit Colburn was reported missing, his father said he was ready to tan his hide for his misbehavior that resulted in a massive search that stretched into three days.
But Ken Colburn said that quickly faded into a simple desire for his son to return home.
I just fixed him a glass of water, and Im going to go in and hug him, Colburn said from his doorstep Thursday after he and the boy returned to their Cathy Court residence.
The fifth-grader walked away from school at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday and was found by exterminators working in a Kimberly Road yard at 9:45 a.m. Thursday within the original search perimeters established by authorities. The search was later expanded to the entire city.
Its very easy to hide a small package in a community this size, Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans said at a news conference after Kit was found.
Ken Colburn said his son was in such good condition that his first meal after being found -- an ice cream sandwich and soda -- almost scared emergency staff who saw a higher-than-normal blood sugar.
The child and his father spent much of the day at the police department being debriefed by Warner Robins police detectives, Houston County sheriffs juvenile investigators and the Division of Children and Family Services.
Houston County sheriff's Capt. Randall Banks, head of the juvenile division, said that course of action is routine. He said the Division of Family and Children Services is no longer involved.
"The case is resolved, and everybody's satisfied," Banks said Friday.
Ken Colburn had spent the early hours of the morning Thursday riding around with a police officer calling for his son on a public announcement system built into the dash.
Kit James, its your Daddy, Colburn said he recalled saying over the PA system. Its time to come home.
Colburn said his son told him he spent the 49 hours dodging police cars and the scores of public safety officials and volunteers on foot looking for him.
His son actually wanted to return to school so he could ride the bus back home, Colburn said. But he was scared when he saw the sheriffs patrol cars parked outside the school.
He was thinking he was going to be in trouble, Colburn said.
Russell Elementary School Principal Keith Lauritsen said he was also angry with the boy for taking off at first. His anger quickly turned to worry as he and hundreds of others searched for Kit.
When Lauritsen heard the boy had been found, he was flooded with relief and joy.
The principal and student spent some time together Thursday. Many others were happy and relieved by the news.
Volunteers gathered almost immediately to hear Evans confirm during a Thursday morning press conference that Kit had been found.
The chief said he was filled with pride about the way the community pulled together for the benefit of one young man.
The recovery in and of itself lets you know that this mission was successful, he said.
A father of seven children, Evans said he was especially touched by how children in the community who heard about the missing boy urged their parents to help.
Scores of law enforcement and public safety agencies, volunteers, businesses and community organizations helped -- looking for the boy on foot, passing out flyers or providing food, water and other needs. Evans said the attitude of the community was, What can we do?
Evans said Kits supposed history of running away was actually one time he ran away to a neighbors house a block away.
Next-door neighbor Jessica Sperling said she was taken aback by anyone who lamented at the kid being in constant trouble. Hes like family, she said.
Sperling added Ken Colburn is good father who is as stern as any parent should be. Kit had recently been grounded for not completing homework.
Hes like any parent, she said.
She, her husband and two daughters searched for Kit from the beginning. Her 13-year-old daughter cried when he was found. Her 5-year-old daughter, Ryleigh, had just one question.
Is Kit un-grounded? she asked.
As to potential consequences for the students actions, Lauritsen said thats not a concern at the moment.
On the one hand, school officials want the child to know that he is loved and that they are so glad to have him back safe and sound, Lauritsen said. But on the other hand, they dont want to glamorize or reward wrong behavior and encourage other students to take similar action.
A two-week suspension from school has been discussed but no decision has been made, Lauritsen said. He added that length of time away from school likely would not impact the boys grades because hes so smart.
Hes knocked the top off every test hes taken, Lauritsen said.
Remarks from the father to another media outlet that he was not worried about the boy initially raised a red flag for Evans, who said hed have been knocking on front doors in search of his children. But after speaking face-to-face with the father, that issue was resolved.
The father said he had nothing but praise and admiration for law enforcement, public safety personnel, volunteers and every person who helped search for his son.
Parents picking up their children Thursday afternoon from Russell Elementary School said they used what happened as a learning tool and an opportunity to talk with their children about choices and consequences.
Evans mirrored their comments reminding parents to tell their children police are their friends.
They need to understand this is still their safe haven, Evans said. They need to understand that running from us is not the answer; coming to us is.
Concerns also lingered about school security for some. Jessica Sperling, Kits neighbor, said she didnt fault the school, where her children have attended.
To ask the teachers to take away from learning to walk a kid to the office, is excessive, she said. She said access key cards for students could be useful though.
Lauritsen noted additional security cameras that were already in the works from a special purpose local option sales tax measure. The principal said there are now also discussions of building a fence around the school. But he said he believes giving fifth-graders choices to act responsibility such as going to the principals office without an escort is part of maturing and growing up.
When he and the boy talked, Lauritsen said Kit told him he knew he had a choice: he could go one way to the principals office or another to Kimberly Drive, and he chose Kimberly Drive.
If he contemplated even for a moment the trouble that he caused everybody, he would never ever have turned right instead of left, Ken Colburn said. "It's just not in him. It's not his nature."
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559. To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.