Two young children and a baby are safe after a vehicle they were in was stolen from a Grand Island residence early Sunday morning in frigid weather.
On Monday, police provided updated information, including why the children were in a running vehicle without their parents.
According to press release from the Grand Island Police Department, about 3 a.m. Sunday, a Grand Island resident reported his 2012 Chevy Traverse had been stolen from the 1400 block of North Wheeler Street. His three children – ages 5, 1, and 7 months – were in the vehicle. A short time later, GIPD, not yet aware of the children’s presence, attempted to stop the vehicle, but were unsuccessful and terminated the pursuit.
An investigation led officers to believe the vehicle was in Buffalo County. The vehicle was later located in rural Buffalo County and two suspects, a 17-year-old Hastings boy and Tate Wolfe, 18, of Kearney, were taken into custody by the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department and Nebraska State Patrol, but the missing children were not in the stolen vehicle.
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Temperatures at the time were hovering around zero at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport.
At 4:52 a.m., GIPD officers, while conducting a canvas search, discovered a vehicle stolen out of Kearney, and located the two oldest kidnapping victims in that vehicle, believed to have been placed there by the suspects.
However the infant was not located at that time. A county-wide alert was issued in an attempt to locate the infant, asking area residents to “look on property for 7-month-old male in carseat.”
At 5:25 a.m. a rural Hall County resident located the infant abandoned on the porch of a farmhouse.
All three children were transported for medical attention for suspected hypothermia and frostbite. On Monday, police said all three were treated and released.
Both suspects are in custody and housed in the Hall County Jail on suspicion of three counts of kidnapping, three counts of intentional child abuse resulting in injury, possession of stolen property, and flight to avoid arrest. There may be additional charges in cooperating jurisdictions.
“Inter-agency communication, great police work, and the assistance of the public following the alert allowed for a resolution involving the reunion of children to their family, and the suspects being taken into custody,” Capt. Jim Duering said the release.
On Monday, the department said its investigation found no negligent behavior on behalf of the parents, "who are victims in this case." The department said the parents loaded the children in the vehicle while running because of cold temps, and engaged in brief conversation with neighbors, "at which time the suspects took opportunity to steel the running vehicle."
Video evidence corroborated the details.