A Nebraska teenager allegedly stole a vehicle and after discovering a trio of small children in the backseat, abandoned the youngsters in freezing-cold temperatures before fleeing the scene, police say.
Officers said that Tate Wolfe, 18, admitted to meeting up with his 17-year-old co-defendant and abandoning the kids. The children are now back safe with their family, while the suspects were arrested for a slew of charges, including kidnapping, and child abuse.
Officers with the Grand Island Police Department said they got dispatched Sunday regarding the vehicle theft and eventually encountered the stolen car.
“An officer in the area located the vehicle and attempted a traffic stop on it at 03:02 in the area of 8th Street and Lincoln, however, the vehicle rapidly accelerated and failed to stop at stop signs in multiple intersections,” officers said. “Contact was then made with the reporting party, whom was the owner of the vehicle, and he reported that his three children, ages 5, 1, and 7 months old, were inside the vehicle at the time of the theft.”
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On Monday, officers cleared the parents of any negligence. Officers said that the parents put the kids in the running vehicle because of the cold and spoke briefly with neighbors at the time of the theft.
“These circumstances were corroborated by video evidence,” officers said.
Authorities eventually caught the occupants in the stolen vehicle — Wolfe and his 17-year-old co-defendant — but they determined the children were not in the car.
“A countywide search ensued for the children as the temperature was at 0 degrees Fahrenheit and a –19 degree wind chill,” police wrote.
A Grand Island police officer found a suspicious truck, the department said. Officers quickly determined it was stolen out of Kearney, Nebraska, earlier that evening and found the missing 5-year-old boy and the one-year-old girl in the truck, “which was unsecured and not running,” they said.
The children were taken to Saint Francis Medical Center because of their prolonged exposure to the cold, but officers did not find the 7-month-old boy, according to the police department.
It was soon after that a person found the baby abandoned on a porch and wrapped only in a blanket, officers said.
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“During an interview with Wolfe, he admitted to taking the vehicle from 1409 N. Wheeler and fleeing the area,” cops said. “Wolfe advised he realized children were in the vehicle so he met up with the 17 year old juvenile whom was driving the stolen Chevrolet truck out of Kearney. They left the stolen truck in the alley and transferred the two oldest children into the truck and left them unattended, with the vehicle turned off.”
He allegedly said a Grand Island police officer tried to pull them over, but he sped off.
“Wolfe also admitted that he dropped off the 7 month old child on a random porch and fled the area,” officers said. “Wolfe was completely aware that the temperature was dangerously cold at the time, at –20 degrees wind chill.”
Wolfe and the 17-year-old were arrested for three counts of kidnapping and three counts of child abuse – intentional with injury. He also faces a count each of theft by unlawful taking, theft by receiving stolen property, and flight to avoid arrest.
“The children have all been treated and released, and reunited with their family, while the suspects remain in the custody of the Hall County Jail at this time,” officers said on Monday.
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