Child found unharmed after being left in car that was stolen; suspect still sought

05/17/2014 12:00 AM

05/16/2014 7:39 PM

A 3-year-old boy taken in an SUV as his mother shopped inside a Greenville bakery was found unharmed, sitting in his car seat on the side of a residential street Friday, as authorities sought to locate a man they say took the car while the motor was running.

Deputies searched for a white male who wore a white hat, a dark shirt, dark pants and white shoes shown in a grainy surveillance video on Friday morning at the La Esperanza Bakery on North Pleasantburg Drive, said Drew Pinciaro, a Greenville County sheriff’s spokesman.

The search spanned two counties and deputies believe the man was on foot after he left the blue Ford Explorer near Crosswell Acres Court in Easley, Pinciaro said.

A manhunt ensued, focused on the Crosswell Acres neighborhood and surrounding land, and involved at least eight law enforcement agencies, said Jennings Autrey, another sheriff’s spokesman.

The manhunt was called off Friday afternoon as investigators regrouped, looked again at surveillance footage and continued to investigate the man’s whereabouts, Pinciaro said.

Residents were asked to report anything suspicious — maybe an open outbuilding or evidence of a forced entry to 911 immediately, Autrey said.

“We don’t know if he’s on foot or in a vehicle,” Autrey said.

Deputies were unsure whether the suspect is armed, he said.

The boy’s mother was reunited with the child after a woman called 911 at 10:40 a.m. and said she found the boy still in his car seat sitting on the side of the road on Ridgecrest Drive and Sammons Road, Pinciaro said.

The mother reported that she left the car running while she ran inside the bakery, located across from Bob Jones University, at around 9 a.m., Pinciaro said.

“As she came out of the store she observed her vehicle taking off,” Pinciaro said.

The vehicle left the bakery headed in the direction of Wade Hampton Boulevard. A deputy spotted it on U.S. 123, turned around and tried to stop the vehicle, which led to a short pursuit

The man evaded the deputy and the SUV was located a short time later on Crosswell Acres Court, Pinciaro said.

Agencies involved in the search include sheriff’s offices from Greenville, Pickens and Anderson counties, the state Highway Patrol, Travelers Rest Police Department, Crosswell Fire Department, Pickens EMS and the state Department of Natural Resources, Autrey said.

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