ST. PETERSBURG — Kara Lane watched in horror as her car rolled down the driveway Monday.
She thought the Acura had slipped out of gear — with her 11-month-old son in the back seat.
She ran outside and saw a stranger behind the wheel. Now panic gripped the mother.
Her infant son, DeAngelo Woods Jr., was being taken right before her eyes.
"My baby's in the car!" she screamed to the thief.
He took off. She and her boyfriend sped through red lights, frantically searching for their son.
Their ordeal ended 76 minutes later when firefighters brought an unharmed — and apparently unflappable — DeAngelo back home to his parents.
As the teary-eyed mother explained what happened again and again to the TV cameras at her door, DeAngelo playfully grabbed at microphones and a reporter's notebook as if nothing had happened.
"He was real calm, he was fine," said the 25-year-old mother. "He just wanted a bottle."
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Kara Lane and her boyfriend, DeAngelo Woods, 24, had just returned to their 2415 11th St. N home Monday morning from a beach weekend.
Lane needed to take her son and daughters, ages 3 and 4, to day care. She strapped DeAngelo into his seat and put him in the back. She went inside the house to get his diaper bag and the girls. She left the car running.
Then in the reflection of the front door window, she saw her 1997 gray Acura creep down the driveway.
Her screams brought her boyfriend running outside. He chased the car past 24th Avenue N. The car stopped, and the boyfriend yanked the front door open.
"My son is in there!" he yelled at the thief. But the car took off again.
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The mother flagged down a passing police officer on 24th Avenue N at 10:07 a.m., and he took off after the stolen car. The couple also gave chase in a black Infiniti. Lane said they sped all over looking for the boy.
"All I thought about was that I strapped him in his seat but his seat wasn't strapped into the car," the mother said. "All I could think of was, if he gets in a wreck, he's going to be crushed. It was a nightmare."
Officers lost the stolen car, but pulled the Infiniti over and had the couple return home.
At 10:42 a.m., police got a call from Thomas Davis of 2836 24th St. N. The car thief had left the baby on his doorstep. DeAngelo had been found safe 1.4 miles away.
The stolen car was found nearby. So, too, did police find two males, ages 20 and 16, in the area crawling through a hole in a fence.
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St. Petersburg police were already in DeAngelo's neighborhood investigating reports of three suspicious males when the infant was kidnapped.
Police believe the three left behind a stolen vehicle at 24th Avenue N and Fourth Street N and were looking for another car to steal when they came upon the Acura.
The father said the two males stopped at the fence were outside his home as he ran after the Acura. Police questioned the males but did not arrest or identify them.
Whoever stole the Acura, police theorize, picked up the other two. But they might not have realized the baby was in the car until that moment, police say.
Detectives have identified a suspect and are searching for him. They're also investigating reports of gunshots heard nearby around 10:14 a.m.
"It just shows why you can never leave your car running," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt, "even for a short period of time."
Times staff writers Brant James and Emily Nipps contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8472.