Missing Las Vegas 6-Year-Old Turns Up Safe

Six-year-old feared abducted by violent drug gang found safe and sound.

Oct. 19, 2008 -- A Las Vegas boy who police say was abducted at gunpoint by violent Mexican drug dealers was found alive on a city street Saturday.

Las Vegas police made the announcement late last night after finding the 6-year-old wandering the streets of northeast Las Vegas.

"Cole Puffinburger has been found. He is safe and in our custody, said Las Vegas police Sgt. Vincent Cannito.

The boy was found outside a large Methodist church about five miles from the Las Vegas strip, after a caller informed detectives that a child was walking alone on a street in a middle-class neighborhood of tidy, modest-sized homes there, police said.

The area around the church was being treated as a crime scene, police said, but they gave no information about how Cole got there or where he had been kept since he was abducted Wednesday morning.

Law enforcement officials said Cole was back with his father, but investigators were talking to him to try to find out what had happened.

"We're speaking with the boy today. I know he's being interviewed by law enforcement, and we'll probably get a better idea of where he's been," FBI spokesman David Staretz told The Associated Press.

Holding back the tears at an early morning news conference to announce that the boy was safe, Cole's father, Robert Puffinburger, thanked the volunteers who helped to find his son.

"It's indescribable," he said. "I thank this whole community. I can't thank you enough. Thank you so much for helping me find my son."

Early Wednesday morning, three men dressed as police officers tied up the boy's mother and her fiancée in their Las Vegas home and ransacked the house.

Police say the men were looking for money -- lots of it.

When they couldn't find cash, they took 6-year-old Cole instead.

Police say the home invasion and subsequent kidnapping was motivated by the theft of millions of dollars that may have been taken from Mexican drug dealers by Cole's grandfather, Clement Tinnemeyer.

Tinnemeyer was arrested in Riverside, Calif. on Friday. At one time, Tinnemeyer lived in the same house as Cole and his mother but reportedly had not been at the residence for more than a year.

Hundreds of volunteers, the FBI, DEA and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were all involved in the search for the first-grader.

Police say the investigation will continue. "The remainder of the investigation shifts and our focus now goes on to the drug-dealing to potential extortion issues, as well as other issues certainly that are involved in this investigation at this time, " said Cannito.