Authorities find 21-month-old boy taken during car theft

May 3, 2013 12:33:08 PM PDT
A Houston toddler is safe with his mother after a very scary experience Tuesday night. The little boy was alone in his mother's SUV when a thief jumped in it and took off.

The vehicle was later found abandoned, with the child in the backseat unhurt. But that crook is still on the run.

Jenene and Lannie Lawrence will never take their family for granted -- not after Tuesday night.

Jenene said, "My heart just stopped, because it was less than a minute, literally."

This all started at a gas station on Scott and Yellowstone on Houston's south side. Jenene can be seen walking in the store, with no idea what's about to happen. Surveillance video shows her walk to the ATM, but in that moment, a thief is stealing her SUV and driving away with her 21-month-old boy buckled inside. Police say she left the vehicle running and in moments it was gone.

"I come to this store all the time," said nearby resident Lynette Richard. "You just can't get out of your car and leave it running, especially with your child in it. It's just so dangerous out here now. You just never know what's going on."

The distraught mother's first call was to 911 and her second was to her husband.

Lannie Lawrence, Jr., said, "I had faith in the Houston Police Department and had faith they'd get him. In a time like that you have to be calm and let people do their jobs."

About one hour later a couple out walking discovered the SUV in a residential neighborhood about a mile and a half away. The toddler was still tucked safe inside, but crying.

Erika Emal recalled, "I looked inside. Sure enough he was by himself, so I tried the door and it was open. I just got him out. He was screaming and covered in sweat when I got him out."

The boy was reunited with his mother, and checked out at the hospital. Everyone is thankful this was nothing more than a lesson learned.

Richard said, "I'm glad they found him and that the baby is alright."

It is a reminder that it is never safe to leave a child alone in a vehicle, and inside a running vehicle makes it even more of a target. That's why Jenene wants to pass on the lesson she learned in an incident she says she will never repeat.

"Love your child and keep them with you at all times," she said.

The child is OK, with no apparent injuries. The car thief is on the run, with no suspect description available.
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