HAMPSTEAD, N.H. — It was a half-eaten cup of applesauce that caught Claire Gill's eye. It was on the sofa, along with some candy wrappers and a rumpled-up afghan.
"Maybe he was here," Claire said, referring to a missing 9-year-old neighbor boy, the subject of a massive search in this southern New Hampshire town for 1 1/2 days.
She and her husband Jeff, just home from work, started looking through the house they've owned on Brown Hill Road for more than 25 years. Closets, the basement, the garage. Claire then went to the last room in the house — her bedroom.
"What if he's under the bed?" she asked her husband, who responded with, "Just look."
Slowly, nervously she lifted the ruffled bed skirt and saw a small foot. "We have a kid here!" Claire screamed.
There, underneath the bed, was blond-haired, blue-eyed Devin Frenette, a little red flashlight, a bottle of water and an open half-gallon of Friendly's Purely Pistachio ice cream — a flavor he obviously didn't care much for, judging by the nuts he had spit out on the floor.
"He's the sweetest little boy. I just wanted to keep hugging him and hugging him," said Gill, a mother of six and a grandmother of 10. "I just kept telling him everyone was just happy that you're safe."
The boy eluded a state police helicopter equipped with heat-seeking cameras, numerous canines tracking his scent and more than 350 searchers combing acres of woods and swamps for 30 hours by making himself at home with his unknowing neighbors, the Gills.
He was reported missing about 4:45 p.m. Monday, a few hours after he was last seen in a blue fleece jacket and khaki pants at his adoptive parents home a half-mile away. He was found by the Gills shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The Gills said he may have spent overnight in one of the family's cars in the garage, then entered the house when he awoke and after they had left for work. They believe he spent at least some of his time cuddled up in an afghan with their West Highland White Terrier Mackenzie on the couch watching Animal Planet.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Capt. John Wimsatt described the boy as in "great physical shape" when found and did not seem to have been exposed to the elements at all.
An hour after he was discovered, the smiling tyke pulled up to his family home in a police cruiser, sitting in the lap of a police officer. He got out and high-fived all the officers while his mother, Kerrilyn Frenette, kept holding him tight.
"Words can't express how grateful we are for everything you've done," said Kerrilyn, addressing the Gills and the army of local volunteers who participated in the search.
This was not the first time the boy had disappeared. In May, he was found within a few hours about three or four miles away from his home. Authorities said he was home-schooled and described as him as developmentally-delayed and having "a mentality of someone a few years younger."
While it may never be known exactly how Devin spent his 30 hours in hiding, the Gills did glean a few important details from him.
"The applesauce was light applesauce, which he let us know he didn't like," Claire said.