Harnett County authorities said Tyree Smith was left alone inside his apartment at 285 N. Willow St. around 11 p.m. when his mother, Mandy Smith, and his aunt went next door to the party. Tyree's father, Corey Smith, was at work.
"Me and my sister was in and out watching him, and he's scared to go in a room by himself, so I never thought he'd walk out the house," Mandy Smith said.
Both the mother and the aunt fell asleep at the house where the party took place, police said. When they returned home around 5:45 a.m., they discovered Tyree was missing and called authorities.
When asked why he left his home, Tyree said, "I wandered off because I was looking for Mama."
Investigators used dogs to track the boy's scent. They said he cut through a patch of trees and wandered for about 100 yards before ending up at the intersection of Dunn Street and Wimberly Road, where James Patterson found him.
Patterson said he was on his way home from a friend's house when he found the child alongside the road, clad only in his underwear. According to Patterson, he picked Tyree up, looked around the neighborhood for the boy's home, and then drove to the police station, which was closed.
"He couldn't find anyone, so at that point he took the child home, dressed him and gave him something to eat, and put him to sleep on his couch," Angier Police Chief Jay Dudley said.
Patterson drove Tyree back in the morning, saw police and delivered Tyree. He told WRAL that it never occurred to him to call 911.
Dudley said Mandy Smith could be charged with child neglect. Social Services officials will talk with the parents and determine with police whether charges should be filed.