VALRICO, Fla. — A little girl whose disappearance sparked an Amber Alert has been found safe.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced Tuesday evening that 1-year-old Tinnley West had been located about three miles away from the Valrico driveway where an SUV was stolen earlier in the afternoon with her inside.
Chronister said West's mom had been in the neighborhood, helping her mother-in-law unload items from the silver Volkswagen Tiguan. They were trying not to awake the young girl, allowing her to keep sleeping in a car seat inside the SUV in the 2600 block of Green Valley Street in Valrico.
But, as they were unloading the SUV, Chronister says somebody managed to jump inside and drive off with West.
The family called 911, and deputies raced over to begin doing grid searches of the area. They were able to locate the SUV, which had been abandoned at St. Andrews United Methodist Church on Bryan Road in Brandon.
"I couldn't be more thankful to God," Chronister said after deputies found the child.
Around dinnertime, West was reunited with her parents.
Her father had a message for the guy who stole the car: "Don't let me find you."
Chronister said it was lucky deputies found the car in time. It had gotten a little warm inside since the SUV was turned off when it was found. But, little Tinnley was not hurt.
Detectives are beginning to process the scene. And, they have released the below home surveillance video of a man seen in the area shortly before the car was stolen. He'd been asking passersby for a ride before the car theft, Chronister said.
"No coincidence there," said Chronister, who explained the man in the video also matched witness descriptions of the guy seen fleeing the stolen car after it was abandoned at the church.
A K-9 unit was dispatched to the car to see if the dog can help track down the man.
"I would encourage you to turn yourself in," Chronister said in a message to the man.
The Amber Alert has been discontinued. But, authorities hope it will serve as a precautionary tale for other families.
"Don't leave your car running. Never leave your car running," Chronister said, adding that it only took a minute for the SUV to be taken with the child inside.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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