Family recounts terror after baby is stolen with van

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A baby was taken along for the ride after a thief stole a van out of a driveway Wednesday night.

Police say that the father left the little boy in the vehicle with the ignition running while checking on his other children. When he returned, the vehicle -- and the baby -- was gone.

It only took a moment, his wife said.

"He walked to the door threshold to yell to my adult son, 'I'm leaving,' you know, and lock the door. He was taking care of the other kids, so he walked in and said, 'I'm leaving.' And when he turned around, the van was gone."

Little Leo's mother, who requested to remain anonymous, was still at work when her 10-year-old daughter called her crying.

"I told her, 'No, no, no, your dad's on his way to pick me up. He's the one that probably left in the van.' And she said, 'No, no, the van was stolen!' And I was like, 'Nooo.' So I didn't believe them at first.

"... I called my husband and he wasn't answering, I called my son and he wasn't answering, and then they called me back and told me, 'Yes, the van was taken and the baby was in the back.' So we left the job site and started driving up this way looking everywhere seeing if we see the van."

All the while, fearing the worst.

"A lot of things went through my mind. My heart is racing and we were speeding home at the same time looking, and I’m thinking, of course, the worst, you know. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get him that night. I wasn’t sure if they were going to take what they wanted and leave the baby in the car overnight. I wasn’t sure if we were going to find him."

She told 11 News her husband was beside himself with fear and guilt.

"It was horrifying. My husband is driving around crying, knowing how he messed up and how he left [the van] running and how he didn’t lock the doors and how he didn’t take the keys out."

The family believes the suspect quickly realized he had taken more than just a vehicle because just 12 minutes later, police found the van abandoned on the side of the road with Leo still inside. It had been left just a half-mile from the family's home.

"We were very thankful. My sister ... was driving around when she saw the cruiser speed right past her, and she followed them and she got to the car, and they ended up unbuckling the baby and giving him to her."

"I guess the guy that took the car, when he realized there was a baby in the back, he parked it at the corner and jumped out and left," the mother reasoned.

The little boy was unharmed.

"We were just thankful that he was found, and found so quick. ... That's our Thanksgiving this year, being thankful that he wasn't hurt and we got him back and he's spending his first Thanksgiving with us."

At the time this article was written, the suspect was only described as a man wearing a black sweatshirt. The crime happened just before 6 Wednesday night in a neighborhood just southeast of Pikes Peak Avenue and South Academy. Anyone with information is asked to call the Colorado Springs Police Department right away.

Leaving a vehicle running while unattended, also known as puffing, accounts for a hefty percentage of stolen cars in Colorado Springs each year. In many instances, as with the family Wednesday, the vehicle is left for a just matter of seconds.

A few seconds that could have cost the family dearly. They hope others will learn from their story.

"It really doesn't matter where you live," the mother said. "Don't leave the car running, especially when you have a baby inside."