Missing autistic man's wanderings retraced

  • Article by: RODRIGO ZAMITH
  • Star Tribune
  • June 28, 2008 - 10:23 AM

After days of attempting to retrace Keith Kennedy's steps, Burnett County officials finally have a theory about how the 25-year-old autistic man ended up next to a creek in dense Wisconsin woods.

The analysis comes as Kennedy's condition was upgraded from critical to serious Friday at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

The Shoreview man was discovered severely dehydrated Sunday night after wandering off from a nearby camp for developmentally disabled adults 7 miles south of Grantsburg, Wis.

Sheriff Dean Roland said Kennedy was initially spotted southbound on WI-87. He said he thinks Kennedy turned down the first driveway he came across, or turned around, went north and turned down the first driveway there.

"Both of those driveways lead to the creek," Roland said. "The one on the north leads directly to the creek and the one on the south you have to walk through a field, but the fence is down."

Kennedy is believed to have followed a grass trail north, crossing the creek by a footbridge north of the camp or across a shallow area of water nearby.

Once in that area, Kennedy likely became disoriented and continued walking around until his body began to shut down as he succumbed to hypothermia and kidney pain. Kennedy had a kidney transplant in 1995 and had been without his anti-rejection medication.

"It appears he was constantly moving, and that's why it was so difficult to find him," Roland said. "But he wasn't able to move real far ... and probably walked in circles or zigzags.

"You can cover a lot of ground in six days."

Kennedy's clothes have yet to be found, Roland said. Kennedy was found lying naked in the fetal position, with ticks and sores on his body.

"He probably would have taken those [clothes] off because of hypothermia, which makes you feel real hot."

Though dogs attempted to retrace Kennedy's steps, Roland said most of the work was done by Chief Deputy Don Taylor, "an avid hunter and excellent tracker" who spent all week near the site of Kennedy's rescue.

"This is all just through conjecture and we have no way of really substantiating it," Roland said. "But I always said that if I ever got lost, I'd want him to find me."

Kennedy's autism makes it unlikely he will ever explain how he went missing.

Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Amundson said Kennedy remains acutely ill but that the indicators are more favorable than before.

Rodrigo Zamith • 612-673-4895

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