The car thief who drove off with a toddler inside the vehicle was actually trying to kidnap the infant's 7-year-old female cousin, who was able to escape his attempt to grab her, police said today.
The toddler was found safe today, 15 hours after his abduction, still in the car. The car had been hidden under brush that was only visible from about 20 feet away.
Evan Miller, 18 months, and his 7-year-old cousin were left in a Jeep Cherokee with the motor running while his mom went inside of a Houston Walmart to use the ATM around 5:45 p.m. Thursday.
"The suspect approached [the girl] in the vehicle and started asking her about her mother," David Gott, a captain with the Houston Police Department, said at a news conference today.
According to Gott, the suspect asked the girl, "Where's your mother? Did she leave you alone in the car?"
"He attempted to grab her, so we don't know if maybe she was the target of the offense," Gott said. "This guy may be a predator. He may have bee targeting that 7-year-old girl. He wasn't successful this time, so he may be out there looking for someone else."
The girl, who has not been identified, attempted to grab her cousin before she jumped out of the car, but was unsuccessful. She ran into the Walmart where she found her aunt, who notified police.
An Amber Alert was immediately issued for the boy, but was cancelled after he was found this morning by Terron Henry, owner of a restaurant near where the SUV was parked and hidden from view.
"I was just rolling into work. You heard it was a green Jeep missing, but then it started coming to me. Sometimes you hear the news and you're not really looking, but then it's all happening and you put it together. I just started running and calling 911 because I was just hoping that baby was still alive," Henry told ABC News affiliate KTRK. "I'm happy the baby is OK. That's all that matters right now."
Miller has been released after undergoing an evaluation at Texas Children's Hospital.
He was still strapped into his car seat when Henry found him this morning.
"He was incredibly cold as you can imagine, but he is okay," Gott said.
John Cannon, spokesperson for the Houston Police Department told ABCNews.com, said despite being only three blocks from the Walmart, the Jeep was difficult for even police helicopters to locate.
"The vehicle was well hidden and wedged between the building and some high foliage that even concealed it from the air," Cannon said. "The suspect hid it well."
Cannon said it was unclear how long the suspect had the vehicle or whether he realized Miller was in the car when he stole it.
Police said there is potential the mother may face a misdemeanor for leaving her son in the car with the engine running.
"No matter what...you should never leave your car running for one thing," Gott said. "But certainly never leave your car running when you're not around with a child in the car. In this event it looks like he knew a child was in the car when he took it."