An alert jogger helped reunite an abducted 8-month-old baby with her mother Monday.
Houston police say the baby, Genesis Hailey, was in her mother’s car when it was stolen from a north Houston gas station at around 1:30 a.m.
According to police, the baby’s mother left the sleeping baby in her running vehicle to go inside the convenience store. While she attempted to walk inside, she saw someone get inside her vehicle and drive away.
“She was in there for maybe a matter of seconds, it didn’t seem like that long before she actually saw somebody getting into her vehicle,” said Houston police Officer Shaun Sylvester. “The baby was asleep, she just wanted to run in, get a soda and get back out.”
The mother first chased her vehicle, but when the suspect would not stop, she frantically ran back into the store trying to tell the clerk and other customers what happened. Houston police said they reviewed surveillance video from inside the gas station and after the car was stolen the baby's mom ran back inside and frantically tried to get someone to help and to call 911. Her phone and keys were inside the stolen car.
Appearing to be frustrated, police said, because no one appeared to help her, she left and ran the few blocks to her apartment. Neighbors told Local 2 she kicked down her own door, went inside and called 911 herself. An Amber Alert was issued shortly thereafter.
"This girl right here takes real good care of her baby. I see her everyday," said Ellery Moore, who lives across the street from the mother. "She never lets that baby out of her sight."
Investigators said the mother parked close to the door and went inside for only a few seconds, but that was all it took for someone to hop in and steal the car with the baby inside.
Police recovered the green 2004 Saturn Ion at 1400 Greens Parkway around 3:30 a.m., but the baby was not inside. According to police, the vehicle’s license plates had been removed and baby items had been thrown out of the vehicle.
At around 7:45 a.m., a woman was jogging in the 11300 block of Ella Boulevard when she heard a baby crying. She found the baby after peering into brush near the roadway.
“I saw the baby moving in the car seat and crying so I called 911,” said Hong Nguyen.
Nguyen took a picture with her cellphone and waited with the baby until police arrived.
“I was very worried. It was scary,” she said.
Officer Albert Pizana and his partner then investigated.
"My partner and I took her into the patrol vehicle where it was cool," Officer Pizana added. "Once inside the patrol vehicle, she was still fussy. Being a father, I know sometimes babies like to be swaddled. Since I didn't have a blanket, I decided to use my uniform shirt and that calmed her down," he added.
Police say Genesis was transported to Texas Children’s Hospital for evaluation, found to be in good condition, and was released to her mother.
Officer Jesus Sosa with the Houston Police Department say investigators believe the baby had been dropped off near Ella Boulevard shortly after the vehicle was stolen.
“We believe the vehicle did a “U” from the actual scene, where the vehicle was taken to her dropping off the baby, and going back and dumping the vehicle at the location,” said Sosa.
Investigators say it is possible that the baby had been there since very early in the morning.
Sosa said Genesis had ant bites but appeared good otherwise.
"God was watching over this child. Even the witness that found the child said for some reason, she decided to turn left as she was jogging on Ella,” he said.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, officers expressed disbelief about baby Genesis being left alone in the field, and relief about the outcome.
“The way I feel, I don’t know what kind of animal would do this to a child, leaving the child in the middle of nowhere....in the middle of this empty field for so many hours,” Lt. H. Lopez said.
“In my experience on patrol, we’ve had several baby deaths, so whenever we can recover a baby that’s alive it is very reassuring in our jobs and it feels good,” said Officer Albert Pizana, the first officer to arrive after Genesis was found. “It makes you want to go home and hug your kids even tighter."
It has not yet been determined if the mother will face any charges.
“Right now we are not concentrating on that, we are concentrating on the suspect but it is a good reminder to the public not to leave their vehicles running, especially with a baby inside,” Lopez said.
Police say they are reviewing surveillance video from the gas station.
Anyone with information on this case, or on the identity or whereabouts of the suspect, are urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.