KNOTT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Trooper Matt Gayheart, of KSP Post 13, said he was overjoyed to reunite with three-year-old Madlyn Clawson last week, nearly three weeks after she was first reported missing.
"She's just a spectacular little girl and so joyful and playful," he said. "It's such a good feeling."
Clawson was first reported missing May 4, after she apparently walked away from the home where she was staying in a remote part of Knott County. About 24 hours later, volunteers assisting with the search found her lying on a large bush a couple miles away from the home. Aside from minor scratches, Clawson was in good condition.
"I can't think of any other situation that's relative to this that I can walk away from and my heart be that full of just joy," Trooper Gayheart said in a Zoom interview with LEX 18 Monday.
Gayheart recalled the first thing that Clawson asked for when she was found: chicken nuggets. Last Friday, Gayheart did his part to fulfill that request.
In a Facebook post Sunday, Gayheart explained that a family from Georgia heard about that encounter and sent him a McDonald's gift card to give to Clawson.
"We're gonna keep her stocked up on chicken nuggets," Gayheart joked.
In addition to the gift card, Gayheart also brought a Trooper Teddy Bear, which law enforcement officers give to young children during traumatic experiences. The first picture of Clawson after she was found came on May 6. In it, she is seen clutching one of the stuffed bears.
"I walked into the house," Gayheart said, recounting their reunion Friday. "I said, 'Do you remember me?' and she kinda looked with a little stunned look on her face."
"I actually had a little Trooper Teddy Bear and she saw the bear and then her eyes lit up," he continued. "And she came running over and she gave me a hug."