IMPERIAL, Mo (KMOV.com) – Police have recovered a child that was inside a mother’s vehicle when it was stolen Wednesday afternoon.
Police said a 25-year-old woman pulled into a Phillips 66 gas station on Old Route 21 around 5:20 p.m. She got out and went inside the store, leaving her 19-month-old daughter sitting inside the running vehicle.
The victim said she was only inside for a moment, but when she came out, the vehicle was gone. Police were called to the scene and began a search for the vehicle.
The vehicle was spotted a short time later in the driveway of a nearby residence.
Police say a neighbor, Al Schmidt, lives about a mile from the gas station where the car was found. Schmidt said he was coming home from deer hunting when he encountered the suspect in front of his home. Schmidt said the man appeared flustered, and told him he had found the child along the road.
The suspect then took the child and the child seat out of the vehicle and told Schmidt he had to go. The suspect then sped away in the stolen vehicle.
It was a case of right place, right time for Schmidt as the baby was wearing only a t-shirt. If he had not been coming home, the child may have been left out in the cold.
The child was unharmed and is now back with her mother.
Authorities said a deputy later spotted a Jeep matching the vehicle’s description along Highway 141 near Fenton. The officer tried to pull the vehicle over, but the driver got out and attempted to flee on foot.
The officer caught up to the suspect after a brief chase and took him into custody.
The thief, described as a 21-year-old white man, faces multiple charges. He remains in the Jefferson County Jail.
Authorities say the mother may also face charges for leaving her child unattended.