Police focusing on 3 in Las Vegas boy's abduction

October 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Police said Saturday that they are seeking a Mexican citizen and have another person in custody as they investigate the drug-related abduction of a Las Vegas boy, whose grandfather was arrested the night before in California in the hopes that he could provide clues. The Mexican man, identified as Jesus Gastelum, is in his mid-30s and believed to be in Las Vegas or Southern California, police said at a news conference. The other "person of interest" was not identified.

Police have already arrested the grandfather of 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger, who was abducted from a Las Vegas home Wednesday morning by two men posing as police officers. Police said they believe that the men were Mexican drug dealers and that the kidnapping at gunpoint was a "message" to the grandfather, Clemens Tinnemeyer, 51.

"Clemens Tinnemeyer has been interviewed, information is still forthcoming in this investigation," Las Vegas police Capt. Vincent Cannito said at a news conference Saturday.

Tinnemeyer was arrested late Friday in Riverside. He was being held in San Bernardino, and authorities hope his arrest will help lead them to Cole's abductors. Cannito said detectives continue to investigate "a very strong network, all in very close proximity."

He told reporters the investigation had resulted in "a number of search warrants in several jurisdictions." Officials also uncovered a "large amount of cash," but Cannito would not say where.

Authorities had issued an Amber Alert that triggered a public search for the boy and flashed his photograph on billboards and highway signs throughout Nevada and California. The alert was called off Saturday, but authorities said the search for the boy continued, focusing on the northeastern Las Vegas Valley.

The alert had helped lead to the arrest of Tinnemeyer, and its effectiveness "had run its course," Cannito said.

The two abductors entered the home and tied up the boy's mother and her boyfriend. The home was then ransacked and the boy taken; Cannito said earlier that a third man was believed to be involved.

Tinnemeyer may have stolen millions of dollars from the Mexican citizens, said Officer Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas police spokesman. Johnson declined to say what role Tinnemeyer played in the drug operation or whether the kidnappers were seeking a ransom.

Police believe methamphetamine was involved, Johnson said.

Authorities also were investigating whether other family members had ties to the drug operation, Johnson said.

"Money is a huge factor, obviously. Drugs are a huge factor," Johnson said. "The only innocent person involved in this entire operation is the boy."

Court records show Tinnemeyer and his wife filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2001, claiming $226,500 in assets and $329,000 in liabilities. The couple listed more than $15,000 in credit card debt.

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