Two-year-old DeOrr Kunz vanished in the wilds of Idaho. Subscribe now for an inside look at the search for the little boy and what his parents think happened to their son, only in PEOPLE.
It was Day 2 of a summertime family camping trip to a remote area in the mountains of Idaho and DeOrr Kunz, 26, wasn’t sure how much longer he wanted to stay.
Kunz and Jessica Mitchell, 26, had taken their 2-year-old son, also named DeOrr, on a trip to Salmon-Challis National Forest July 10, 2015. They met up with Mitchell’s grandfather Robert Walton and his fishing buddy Isaac Reinwand. It was going to be a long weekend.
“I hate camping.” Kunz tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “I was looking for any and every excuse to leave.”
But in the hours that followed, Kunz would learn that he would have no choice but to stay.
After cooking up a breakfast of eggs, sausage and hash browns, the family of three took a trip to the nearby town’s general store for supplies and snacks. Upon returning to camp, Kunz and Mitchell went looking for a place to fish. About 50 yards away from the campsite, Kunz spotted some minnows that he thought his son would love to see.
“I walked up the embankment and when I looked over, he wasn’t in his chair and he wasn’t with [Walton],” Kunz recalls. He quickly turned toward Mitchell and told her their son was gone.
Stunned from the news, Mitchell dropped her fishing pole, ran up the embankment and started screaming as the realization that her boy was missing began to hit her.
“I left everything where it was,” says Mitchell, who explains she is still numb over his disappearance. “I just ran across the rocks, went up the embankment and went, ‘What do you mean he’s gone? What do you mean he’s missing?'”
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Deputies from the Lemhi County Sheriff’s office swarmed the campsite and scoured more than a two-mile radius of the area. More than 200 volunteers helped search for the toddler who loved to wear cowboy boots and play with Hot Wheels.
Since then, Kunz and Mitchell have been named suspects in the disappearance of their son. They deny any involvement. But investigators claim their stories have been inconsistent and everyone at the campsite has “been less than truthful.”
But DeOrr’s parents spoke out to PEOPLE exclusively about their heartbreak and desperate hope that they will see their son alive again, even though no trace of their son has been found for almost a year.
To read more about the disappearance of DeOrr Kunz, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.