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Man drives 2 hours to search for Alabama girl missing in the woods, finds her

DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. — The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday a 3-year-old girl who was reported missing on Thursday evening was found, thanks to a determined rescuer.

Eric Gilbreath knows Serenity Dawn Sanders because she and his son share the same mom. When he heard she was missing, Gilbreath traveled two hours from his home in Cullman to get to DeKalb County to join the massive search that involved 18 agencies and various citizens.

"Your heart just falls out on the floor. My first thought was helping getting out there and looking. I wasn't going to give up," Gilbreath said.

Serenity Dawn Sanders

Gilbreath said, when he arrived at the wooded area off of County Road 957, he grabbed his spotlight and headed out alone.

"I just walked the ridge top, walked halfway down the ridge and walked the bottom of the ridge and went to the next one," Gilbreath said.

He was determined to find her and, after several hours, he did – along with her dog.

"That dog was still right there by her side. She was standing there behind the tree. I walked behind the tree she said, 'Hey, Eric'," Gilbreath said.

After he found her, Gilbreath had trouble finding his way back out. He had to listen to a police siren to find his way out. He said, as they walked back, Serenity talked the whole way.

"She was talking about her scratches," Gilbreath said.

He also reminded her to never go anywhere without her mom. The 3-year-old was transported to the hospital as a precaution but is expected to be fine.

Deputies told WHNT Serenity was found safely around 7:30 Friday morning roughly about 600 yards from her house.