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Missing St. Petersburg toddler found safe, but father remains under arrest

ST. PETERSBURG — The missing toddler who sparked a citywide search was found safe by officers at 10:20 p.m., police said.

Six hours after he disappeared, Tamarcus Daise was found in the 2100 block of Dartmouth Avenue, police said, still strapped in the red 2010 Dodge Charger that he was last seen in.

The car was stolen about 4:30 p.m., police said, after the father left it idling on the street.

But his father remained under arrest. Tamarcus J. Daise not only hampered the search for his son, according to St. Petersburg police, but a gun-toting relative threatened officers while they were doing their jobs.

"You're taking me to jail?" the handcuffed father said as officers put him in the back of a police cruiser. "You're ... crazy man."

Daise, 29, was arrested on a charge of obstruction of justice, accused by police of providing "false information" about the 16-month-old child to officers. He has a long criminal record. But police said they don't believe he was involved in the disappearance.

His half-brother, Tyreece Rutledge, 27, was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

Both men were arrested just blocks away from where the child went missing at 17th Street near First Avenue N. The officers were going door-to-door when they said the two men pulled up before 6 p.m.

The father had already left the area once before and was upset at police. When he and Rutledge returned, the men were "animated," police said, and demanded to know why the officers were questioning residents instead of looking for the missing child.

Sgt. Al White, one of the lead investigators, tried to explain what the officers were doing, police said. That's when police said the driver, Rutledge, pulled out a handgun and aimed it at the sergeant's face. Then they drove off, only to be later arrested by police.

Daise called police at 4:23 p.m. to report his son was gone and the rental stolen. He said he left the car parked along 17th Street near First Avenue N while he went into the courtyard of the Sierra Palms apartments, just southwest of Tropicana Field.

But he also left the car on, police said, while his son was strapped into his carseat in the back. The child was wearing a blue, green and silver shirt and beige pants.

The father told police he drove there to pick up a friend. He was standing by his friend's door when he looked back to the street and saw someone driving the car north on 17th Street, police said.

The father told police he could not see who was driving.

Police scoured the area, doing a grid search of local streets. A Tampa Police Department helicopter was sent to help with the search with a St. Petersburg officer onboard.

A city surveillance camera captured the car speeding away on nearby Burlington Avenue, police said, confirming the father's timeline. Police are examining the tape but didn't release more details.

The father has a long record of drug arrests starting in 1999, according to state records, and has done two stints in prison. Daise was sentenced to nearly five years in prison in 1999 for the sale and possession of cocaine. A drug charge led to another year in 2006.

His girlfriend and the child's mother, Dala Daniels, 19, was taken to police headquarters to talk with investigators.

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Missing St. Petersburg toddler found safe, but father remains under arrest 01/07/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 8, 2011 1:18pm]
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