BURKE COUNTY, N.C. -- An autopsy is scheduled Thursday for a three-year-old that was found dead in the bitter cold, lying on the front porch of a Morganton home.

The Burke County Sheriff's Office responded to a 911 call around 7:45 a.m. Wednesday on the 1200 block of Hopewell Road. The call came from a passing motorist who voiced concern after spotting the child.

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"That house right there on the corner was layin' a kid like two or three years old on his belly on the porch... motionless," the caller told a 911 dispatcher.

Upon arrival, deputies say they discovered the 3-year-old child was dead just steps away from his front door.

The child's mother and her boyfriend were inside, still asleep, when deputies say they had to knock on the door to wake the couple up and break the news.

Investigators say they're trying to figure out how and why the child died. No information has been released on whether the toddler somehow got out of the residence accidentally or if the incident was intentional.

"It's horrible... I just can't comprehend, I'm a grandmother and it's just devastating," a neighbor told NBC Charlotte.