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'Colorado Lifetrak' Wasn't Working On Missing Autistic Boy

DENVER (CBS4) - After missing all night, an autistic boy in Aurora is safe back at home Monday. He was wearing a tracking device, but police say it wasn't working.

On Sunday night Brandon Wells, 11, jumped out of a second story window. He then walked away from his home near Hampden and Picadilly. Officers found him around 4 a.m. in an open space near the home. But police tracked him down without help from that monitoring device.

The story has a happy ending, but it makes people wonder about the accuracy of the tracking devices. Brandon's parents think the battery in the transmitter was faulty, but they also admit they hadn't tested it in weeks.

Brandon's father, Mark Wells, says Brandon was at home with a babysitter when he jumped 15 feet out of the second story window.

Brandon Wells
Brandon Wells (credit: CBS)

"Unfortunately he's gotten away from everybody from school, babysitters, from us," Mark said.

For 4 years Brandon has worn a tracking system on his ankle. It's the same type of Colorado Lifetrak device worn by a 10-year-old autistic girl who was found dead last month in a pool of water at an Arvada construction site. The system failed to show her location.

Aurora emergency officials suspect Brandon's system wasn't working Sunday.

"We had issues with the tracking early on," Matt Chapman with Aurora Emergency Management said.

Brandon's mother, Marianna, thinks she knows why. She said she opened the device and found the battery was broken.

"It just fell apart," she said.

Marianna thinks the battery is faulty, but she also admits the last time she tested the transmitter was when she installed the new battery two weeks ago.

"I feel just as responsible as the parent because I haven't been checking the battery every day," Marianna said.

Chapman says they're looking into the problem.

Old-fashioned searching led to Brandon. He was found by rangers a mile away at the Plains Conservation Center.

"It was very evident he was cold and tired and just wanted to go home," a ranger said.

Police say the case offers a lesson.

"Technology fails all of the time -- cell phones, Internet; everything can go down at any point," Sgt. Cassidee Carlson with Aurora police said. "That's the message to the parents and anybody who uses Lifetrak -- there is a sense of responsibility there."

CBS4's Kathy Walsh spoke with a vice president of Caretrak International, the company that makes the tracking device. He said the Arvada case is the first incident in the company's 26 years. They believe something in the water cut down the signal. He says the product is very reliable and people sign a contract agreeing to test the transmitter twice a day.

Aurora police say the Crimes Against Children Unit is looking into Brandon's case. His mother admitted she was cited for misdemeanor child abuse two weeks ago because Brandon fled and the battery in his tracking device wasn't working.

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