CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - Clearwater police said the 3-year-old thought to be missing after the car he was in was stolen, was actually safe at daycare the whole time.
"It appears that the exchange of the vehicle may have some kind of drug nexus," Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said Wednesday after events unfolded and little Ismyel Badillo was safe with his grandparents.
The 3-year-old's mother told police she left her car unattended with her son Ismyel inside. When she came back, the car was gone. The car was equipped with a GPS and police tracked it to the area of Drew Street, then on U.S. 19, at times going the wrong way in the lanes of U.S. 19.
The car crashed around 2:20 p.m. just south of Curlew Road, and the driver, Stevie Gamble Jr., was taken into custody.
Police say that Badillo's parents, Nestor Badillo and Angelica Marrero, eventually cracked as the search for the little boy intensified. They admitted they were telling a tall tale. Police found Ismyel at his daycare in Pinellas Park, where he was the entire time.
Marrero told police the boy she knew he had been there along. Indeed, when police went to verify that, they found him and his 4-year-old sister, safe and sound.
Marrero and Badillo were taken to jail at 8:30 Wednesday night.
Nestor Badillo said he was at work when it all went down, and it would be for the public to decide whether he is being falsely arrested.
However, Badillo said to reporters, "it takes a few months to figure out who stole my car. It happened again, they stole it out of my driveway. Maybe this will teach people not to steal other people's vehicles."
Just after their parents were driven to jail, Ismyel and his 4-year-old sister were released to their grandparents.
His grandparents got the bulletin at the same time the rest of the Bay Area.
"Thank God almighty, I am getting my grand babies and I am going home and they are going to be safe and they are going to be OK," Ismyel’s grandmother, Rosa Marrero said. “Awful, awful, awful. I thought I wasn't going to see my grandson… She is my sweet child too. I just want to talk to her and ask what happened. Why did you take it this far?"
The two parents are being charged with misusing 911 and filing false reports. The driver, Gamble has been charged with grand theft auto and fleeing police.
"Ultimately, through a lot of resources and a lot of effort, we were able to ascertain that the mother provided a false story. She recanted her version of the story and indicated that the child was at a daycare in Pinellas Park and we were able to verify the kid is safe and sound. So we are thankful for that," Chief Laughter said.
The Department of Children and Families said it will also evaluate the situation.
As of Thursday morning, both Badillo and Marrero had bonded out of jail.