A Georgia mother has been arrested after police said she bound her 16-month-old son with packing tape and kept him in a locked vehicle for hours.
The toddler was found Wednesday night near Gainesville when his mother, 18-year-old Grace Love An, called a locksmith to unlock the car, authorities told the Gainesville Times. The locksmith found him in the backseat with cellophane and packing tape wrapped around his wrists and ankles, and over his mouth.
“I looked to see what kind of tool I needed,” the locksmith, Volley Collins, told the newspaper. “I unlocked the door, and reached in to get her keys, and I heard a baby crying. I took my flashlight, and there was a little baby lying in the floorboard in the back.”
Authorities rescued the child and he was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released to child protective services.
An was arrested and charged with first-degree child cruelty, false imprisonment and reckless conduct, according to booking records.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office and witnesses told NBC affiliate WXIA-TV that An drove down a dead-end road and parked — and then bound her toddler in the backseat. Authorities said she walked to a nearby lake and stayed there for hours.
At some point, authorities said, she returned and started knocking on doors in the neighborhood, telling residents she needed to call a locksmith. Someone called a locksmith for her and also phoned police to report a suspicious person in the area.
An never mentioned the child, authorities said.
“She just was acting like someone who had locked her keys in her car,” Collins, the locksmith, told the Gainesville Times. “There was no reaction on her part at all.”
When Collins found the child, he said he was shocked.
“The only reason I looked in the back seat was, I heard a baby cry,” he told WXIA-TV. “You’re kind of stunned; you don’t know what to think. It just makes you mad. How anybody could do anything like that to a baby. And what was she gonna do with the baby?”
Collins told the Gainesville Times: “He was crying. It was just a whimper, but he was crying … I can still picture that baby all taped up.”
Hall County Sheriff’s deputies responded the call about the suspicious person about 6:45 p.m. local time, authorities said in a statement. Deputies met with the locksmith and immediately went to get the child. He was then transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center for evaluation.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes told WXIA-TV that authorities had not determined a motive.
“Obviously we’re going to factor in the mother’s age, and the fact that she has a 16-month-old child that she’s trying to raise on her own. That, in itself, is going to cause a lot of undue stress for a single parent,” she told the news station. “And so, again, without speculating, we’re going to tie that in as a factor as to the possibilities of what her mindset was.
“I feel like if that child had been there much longer, then, yes, a tragedy would have been the outcome.”
Collins told WXIA-TV he’s just glad he found the child.
“All you can think is, you know, God had a hand in it to put us there at the same time,” he said. “Dumb luck, spiritual luck — whatever you want to call it. I’ll call it whatever it is — it’s just good luck on the baby’s part.”
An is being held on $11,600 bail. Authorities said she has requested a public defender.