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Bladen County Sheriff James A. McVicker reported the death of Zackery Blaze Priest, age 4, of 2292 Mitchell Ford Road, Clarkton, on Friday, 22, 2015. The cause of death was drowning.

McVicker said a call was made to the Bladen County 911 Center on Thursday morning, May 21 at approximately 9:15 am. The caller stated a young child had been found floating face up in a pond behind their residence. The caller said the child was removed from the water and was breathing but was struggling.

Law enforcement and EMS were dispatched. The child was transported to Bladen County Hospital and then to Cape Fear Valley. He succumbed to his injuries on Friday. The cause of death has been ruled a drowning.

McVicker said the investigation so far has disclosed the child left his home while his parents were asleep and walked approximately 100 yards to Mitchell Ford Road and then crossed the highway and went another hundred yards to the pond. The owner of the pond went outside to check on their dogs who were barking and saw the child in the pond.

The parents, Jeffery Bruce Priest Jr., 33, and Tiffany Gayle Calcutt, 25, were awakened by Sheriff’s deputies who responded. The parents were unaware the child was not in the residence. They said the outside door had been locked after they had been up earlier to get another child off to school.

McVicker said the case is under investigation and his investigators have been working with Child Protective Services with the Department of Social Services and with the District Attorney’s office.