BURKE COUNTY, N.C. – North Carolina authorities are trying to determine what happened after a toddler was found dead outside a home early Wednesday morning in Burke County.

Police said they were called to the home around 7:45 a.m. and found a 3-year-old boy dead on the porch.

Authorities said that someone driving by the house spotted the child and called 911.

Investigators think the boy, who had turned three the day before, wandered outside sometime during the night and died after being exposed to the freezing conditions for too long.

When the first deputy arrived, the temperature was in the mid-20s, but the strong winds made it feel much colder.

Wind-chill values in the High Country were below zero overnight.

Pat Williams, a neighbor, said he had seen the little boy only a few times after his mother moved in this month.

“Being a grandmother and a great grandmother, and that being my home place, it has touched me greatly,” Williams said. “I’m sorry for everybody, and the whole community is praying for everybody.”

Investigators said the inside door was open when they arrived to the home, but the storm door most likely closed after the child got out.

Deputies said the mother and her boyfriend were asleep at the time and unaware of what happened.

“When you come to a tragic situation like this, it is always heartbreaking for everybody involved, including the officers investigating the case, so our prayers go out to all the families,” Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant said.

In the afternoon, several family members at the Sheriff’s Office were still in shock.

Neighbors like David Barrier fought back tears after hearing of the incident.

“Just to hear what happened, it’s just a tragedy,” Barrier said. “We’ve been praying for the family and hope things work out for them.”

The name of the child has not been released.

The Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division is continuing the investigation with an autopsy scheduled on the child on Thursday.

Heartbreaking: Toddler may have frozen to death after wandering out in middle of night

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