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Abducted Las Vegas boy is returned home safe

LAS VEGAS — As abruptly as he was taken, Cole Puffinburger reappeared. What happened to the youngster in between is still a mystery.

In an abduction that Las Vegas police Capt. Vincent Cannito called "as bad as it gets," the slight 6-year-old was ripped from his home Wednesday morning by men posing as police officers. Authorities suspect Mexican drug dealers with a grudge against Cole's grandfather.

A nationwide search plastered Cole's grinning mug across television, billboards and highway signs. Police worried he might have been taken to Mexico. They targeted a Hispanic neighborhood in Las Vegas, tracing a network of the boy's relatives and friends.

And then late Saturday, Cole turned up, wandering in front of a church in a quiet residential neighborhood in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip, only a few miles from his home.

Police searched for an explanation Sunday.

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

Cole's father, Robert Puffinburger, was a picture of relief at a news conference. He smiled, cried and thanked police and neighbors for helping to bring Cole home. "I'm just so glad he's safe," he said.

Cole was found in "extremely good condition" but was taken to University Medical Center as a precaution, Cannito said. He was treated and released to his father's care early Sunday, hospital spokesman Rick Plummer said.

Robert Puffinburger would not comment on Cole's mother or her father, 51-year-old Clemens Tinnemeyer, who police say may have stolen millions from dealers involved in trafficking methamphetamine.

Tinnemeyer was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate today in Riverside, Calif. He was arrested there Friday and was being held in nearby San Bernardino on a material witness warrant issued by a federal court in Nevada.

As authorities continued to piece together the puzzle of Cole's abduction, Staretz said officials were still seeking a "person of interest," a Mexican citizen identified as Jesus Gastelum.

Abducted Las Vegas boy is returned home safe 10/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 4:20pm]
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