EUREKA COUNTY -- By the time 29-year-old Joshua Dundon came stumbling barefoot up to Vera and Jim Baumann's Nevada ranch house Monday evening, they were already on high alert.
News of an AMBER Alert for Dundon's two young daughters - 6-year-old Jaylynn and 7-year-old Madison - had splashed across phones, social media and televisions in rural Eureka County, where Dundon's burned-out pickup had been discovered days earlier.
Police say Dundon, who shared joint custody of Jaylynn and Madison with their mother, had checked the girls out of their Boise elementary school Wednesday morning, telling people he was taking them on a camping trip.
Instead, he disappeared.
Vera Baumann told KTVB her dog barking first alerted her to the man walking toward the house across the field.
"We knew that this guy and his little girls were in our area, or had been in our area," she said. "We let him walk into the back porch, and my husband went out to talk with him and recognized him."
Dundon was wearing only sweatpants cut off into shorts, and a camouflage hoodie with no shirt on underneath, she said. His daughters were nowhere to be seen.
"He was very cold, he was hungry, he was thirsty and he could hardly walk because he had walked in about two miles," Baumann said.
The father was desperate, offering Baumann's husband $400-$500 to help him, she said. Instead, she called the Eureka County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Keith Logan and deputies were there in minutes.
As Dundon was taken into custody, he told authorities the girls were still up on the mountain.
"He said he left them behind," Baumann said. "He knew they were not going to make it, so he walked in for help."
But Logan said Dundon, who was suffering from hypothermia, couldn't tell deputies exactly where he left his daughters.
"He pointed us in a direction, he just was not very expansive about how many ridgelines and how many valleys they were over," the sheriff said.
It was raining, Logan said. It would be dark soon.
Eureka County didn't wait.
Baumann called her son-in-law, who showed up with horses, and her son, who came with a side-by-side UTV. The volunteer fire department, a county commissioner, EMS, and other residents turned out too.
"The mountains were crawling with rescuers, including myself," she said.
"My small community of 2,000 people - I started requesting some assistance and I had folks from all walks of life and all different parts, on four-wheelers and horseback and everything else, and they responded in the middle of the rain," he said. "They did their job and they did it very well."
After several hours of "exhaustive" searching, the sheriff said, rescuers found Jaylynn and Madison about a mile away from the Baumanns' home. The girls and their father had been out in the elements since Dundon torched his truck four days earlier, Logan said.
The girls were taken to a hospital to get treatment for exposure, but are expected to make a full recovery.
"They are resilient, strong little young ladies that are doing amazing," Logan said.
Dundon is also receiving treatment, and will be extradited back to Ada County to face two felony charges of custodial interference. His bond has been set at $5 million.
Authorities had connected Dundon and the missing children to Eureka County after resident Kathy Porter and her husband came across him Thursday during a hike in a rural part of the county.
Porter told KTVB Dundon's 2005 Chevrolet Silverado passed them as they hiked up a hill Thursday evening. They heard the truck's engine revving as they approached the top. Her husband, who had reached the top of the hill first, had heard Dundon talking to a small child a short time earlier, she said.
Then they spotted the pickup again.
"The pickup raced in front of us backwards and went through a bunch of rocks, and that's where it stopped," she said. "The cab of the pickup was on fire."
The couple approached the burning vehicle, but no one was inside.
"My husband just hollered 'hey, are you OK?'" she said. "This guy just kind of popped up out of the bushes and said, 'yeah, I'm OK.'"
Porter said she knew something was wrong. The couple abandoned their hike, turning back toward their own vehicle to call 911. As they hurried away from the torched pickup, Porter said, she heard something else.
"As I turned to leave, I could hear a little kid start to cry softly, and he said, 'shhh, it's OK."
By the time the sheriff's office reached the area, Dundon and his girls were gone. It was not until Monday morning that a VIN number from the burned truck confirmed it was connected to the missing girls and their father.
The AMBER Alert was issued Monday afternoon.
The sheriff declined to reveal what Dundon told him about why he took his daughters on the run. Ada County court records show Dundon has a pending child custody and support case, with a scheduling conference set for June.
"He has given his part of the story - I don't think there's anything in the world that I would attribute to justification for his actions," Logan said.
Logan added that Dundon's reasoning was not his first concern after the suspect turned up in the Baumanns' pasture.
"My conversation with him had everything to do with getting those girls located and getting them recovered," he said. "It was not as a criminal investigator at that particular point, it was 'how do I meet the mission and get those girls back safely?'"
Police had warned in the AMBER Alert that Dundon should be considered armed and dangerous. Logan said authorities found a pistol, two rifles, a backpack, survival gear and "plenty of ammunition" in the woods near the torched pickup. Dundon was carrying a large knife when he made it to the ranch house Monday, but made no attempt to get away or resist being taken into custody, he added.
Jaylynn and Madison were moved to an Idaho hospital, and have been reunited with their family, Boise Police said Monday night.
Logan said he is just grateful the girls were found, and credits the Eureka County community for their safe return.
"I have the best community, and I'm blessed to be a part of this community," he said. "It doesn't matter what it is, it doesn't matter when it is. If folks need help, all you have to do is ask, and they'll go out of their way to help you."
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