VALRICO — A 1-year-old girl was found safe Tuesday after being abducted when an SUV was stolen with her in it, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Tinnley Sage West was asleep in the back of a silver Volkswagen when it was stolen from the 2600 block of Green Valley Street just before 3 p.m. A two-hour search ensued, ending with the girl being found safe by deputies at the Saint Andrew’s Methodist Church in Brandon.
Chronister said deputies would continue to search for Tinnley’s abductor throughout the night. Chronister said the man fled from the church and left the baby and SUV behind. A release said he was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans.
Tinnley’s parents were elated when they were told their daughter was found safe, the sheriff said.
“I just wanna say thank you to everyone who looked for Tinnley,” said Chelsea Noriega, Tinnley’s mother, on Facebook. “Thanks to everyone who reached out and sent lots of love. We’re so grateful that Tinnley is home safe. A special thank you to Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office, for their quick and diligent work. Lesson learned, for sure.”
Noriega’s Facebook was filled with messages from friends and family, including one from Gabbie Turner, who said she is best friends with Tinnley’s mother.
“Thankful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling,” wrote Turner. “I wish I could hold my best friend right now so hard as I know she is going through all the feels. Love you so much, Chelsea. I am so glad to know you’re reunited with our little fairy.”
Deputies say Tinnley’s abductor was able to steal the SUV because Noriega was assisting her mom — who has a physical ailment — with bringing things inside her home. She had left her car running because the infant was still in the back.
“All it takes is one minute for somebody to steal your car,” Chronister warned. “Don’t leave your car running ever.”
Deputies discovered Tinnley still in her car seat at the church, Chronister said. He thanked the suspect for not putting the infant in further harm’s way — but also implored him to turn himself in.
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“There is still a price to pay for your actions,” said Chronister. “I would encourage you to turn yourself in because, as you’ve seen with our deputies in recovering this baby and this car, they’re going to be just as diligent to track you down, make sure that you are put behind bars and that you answer for the trauma you caused this young family tonight.”