Project Lifesaver band helps locate missing Lincoln boy

Wednesday afternoon, 9-year-old Matthew enjoyed the sunshine and trampoline in his mom’s backyard.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 9:05 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For those with children or family members prone to wandering off, a device known as Project Lifesaver can be the difference between coming home safely and potentially dangerous situations.

A Lincoln family, who were some of the first to enroll in the program, says being proactive paid off in a big way after it was put to the test earlier this week.

Wednesday afternoon, 9-year-old Matthew enjoyed the sunshine and trampoline in his mom’s backyard. After his Project Lifesaver band, a simple blue and red device that can be put on a person’s wrist or ankle that holds a tracker, helped bring him home safe.

“Matthew has always been a runner - he elopes like he has to do it,” said Kelli Stutzman, Matthew’s mom. “He can’t not run. He’s run several times, I can’t even tell you how many times, but we’ve always been able to find him until this one.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Matthew, who has autism, was at his dad’s apartment in northwest Lincoln getting ready to get in the car to head back to his mom’s house. His dad, Matthew Howe, said his son was only out of his sight for a few seconds and then was gone.

“Matthew will go out the front sliding door and hop in the car buckle up, I’ll close it, lock it and lock my other door and come around real quick, this is the first time that this has ever happened,” Howe said. “He wasn’t there and so you know I looked in the back of the car. Sometimes he’ll hop in the back of the SUV and hide and he wasn’t there.”

Howe said he searched around the apartment complex, and a nearby park, and called law enforcement.

Once on scene, they used tracking equipment to try to locate the boy, who was in an apartment catty-corner from his dad’s.

“They pinpointed him and said we’re pretty sure he’s in this complex,” Howe said. “He was distressed, to say the least, he was scared ya know and I just went past everyone, got to him and said ‘Let’s go mom’s here,’ and he said ‘Oh, moms here.’”

The program is a city-wide resource for children and adults who might be more at-risk of wandering off or going missing.

“There’s a radius of six miles of where the individual was last spotted,” said Cathy Martinez, the president of the Autism Family Network. “Officers are trained and we also have people from the Autism Family Network who are trained and it’s a whole team approach.”

It’s a tiny band that means the world to Matthew’s family.

“Ya know, he has no stranger danger, he’ll go with anybody so we were really relieved because you know even though he was alone in this apartment, he could have turned on the stove, he plays in the sinks and floods our kitchen, he could have caused a lot of damage and got hurt and here he was just by himself in this apartment playing with a cat,” Stutzman said.

If you want more information about Project Lifesaver you can send an email to

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