CLEARWATER — Police were still searching Tuesday for the thief who stole a convertible with a 6-year-old boy sleeping inside.
Both the car and the boy were located about an hour after his mother, Elizabeth Rivera, called 911.
Just before 11 p.m. Monday, Rivera, who lives in Largo, stopped by an apartment building at 2045 Alpine Road in Clearwater to pick up her 8-year-old daughter, who was getting her hair braided by Rivera's friend.
Her son, Theron Fields, was sleeping in the white Ford Mustang that Rivera had rented for the day.
"I left the car running for a second to run upstairs to grab her. And as soon as I grabbed her, no more than a minute, the car was gone with my son in it," Rivera, 23, said. "It was heart-dropping. Panicking. I didn't know what to do. My first instinct was to call the police as soon as possible."
She also called her mother, Evelyn Vazquez, who drove over to be with her daughter while officers searched for Theron.
"I was praying for that to happen," Vazquez said, "and not anything else."
A little more than an hour later, Clearwater police found the car about 2 miles away, parked in an apartment complex at 1419 Leo Lane E.
Inside, Theron was still sleeping in the backseat of the locked car. Rivera reached in for her son and carried him out.
Theron was not hurt. He never saw the car thief, the boy said Tuesday morning.
Before heading to school, Theron rode his scooter down the sidewalk of his house, a smile on his face as his grandmother watched him.
"A happy ending," Vazquez said. "Thank God."
Clearwater police are asking anyone with information to call (727) 562-4242.
Times staff writer Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.