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Boy, 4, wanders streets for 40 hours


LOS ANGELES -- A 4-year-old boy who police said survived a 40-hour odyssey wandering the streets of downtown Los Angeles was reunited with his mother yesterday after being found by an unemployed day laborer who bought the boy a meal and telephoned authorities.

Matthew Vera, a thin boy with dark, smiling brown eyes, was unharmed and undaunted by the experience, according to doctors and his family. Yesterday, he was back playing in his grandmother's small, cluttered home in the east San Fernando Valley area of the city.

The boy vanished from his mother, Rosa Sanchez, just after dawn Friday at the Greyhound bus terminal, at which they had arrived from Stockton, Calif. He was back in her arms, cold and exhausted, at 1 a.m. Sunday after Jose Jimenez, a Mexican immigrant, found him wandering five miles from the bus station, around 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

The rescue was greeted with relief during a weekend in which the body of another child, Polly Klaas, missing from her Petaluma, Calif., home for two months, was found.

"I had thought he was dead," said Ms. Sanchez, who said she had spent the last two days crying and praying for her son to return. "When I held him in my arms, it was as if he had been born again."

It was not immediately clear what the little boy did, or whom he had met, during his odyssey on the streets.

"When questioned what he did all the time, he said he just walked and walked," police Sgt. Alexander Gomez said.

But Matthew told a reporter that before Mr. Jimenez found him, he met another stranger at the bus station and that the man took him to the beach.

He said the man also took him to the man's house, where they watched television programs.

Officials said a doctor's examination found that Matthew was not molested or otherwise injured.

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