Graciela Quintero emerged from her home Monday night, wanting to thank the community. Her daughter was the subject of an AMBER Alert. After widespread media coverage and an intense search, the baby was found safe and sound. "My baby's okay, thanks God," Graciela said. "And I'm happy to find her and have her with me. I want to say to everybody thank you, thank you, thank you."
The nightmare began at 6:45 a.m. That's when Graciela saw someone driving away in her SUV with the baby inside. San Jose police say the mom had left the vehicle with the keys in the ignition for only a short time as she ran back into the house to retrieve some items.
Investigators don't know who was behind the wheel, but they say it may have been the same person who was seen standing around in the cul-de-sac shortly before the vehicle was stolen.
"We don't know if that female got into that car or if the female just walked off, what happened to her, but that was the last person who was seen in close proximity to the vehicle before it was taken," Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.
San Jose police launched an intense search that briefly shutdown Highway 101 and involved a police airplane. Then, nearly five hours later, a maintenance worker at the Seven Trees Community Center spotted the SUV with its hazard lights on. He also found the baby inside.
"I saw car there that didn't belong here, I had an Amber Alert on my phone, and I called PD," Julio Briseno said.
Briseno says the 911 operator asked him to stay with the white Jeep until a police officer arrived. Looking inside the vehicle he could see the baby was fine and remained relatively calm even as the police arrived and took her away.
"Confused maybe, but it wasn't crying all the time, it was crying a little bit and then just looking around," Briseno said.
As soon as police confirmed the safety of the child, police passed on the news to a distraught mother.
"The mother was obviously trying to explain the situation and the incident to the detectives, crying, very emotional, holding a rosary," Officer Albert Morales said.
Officer Carlos Acosta is a father of three and a 14 year veteran of the San Jose Police Department. He was the first officer to arrive on the scene after baby Gabriella was found in the 2006 Jeep Liberty, about five hours after it was stolen from in front of her home.
"You feel compelled and you feel obligated," Officer Acosta said. "This is what you sign up for, this is our job, and we were going to make sure that none of us were gonna go home until we found her."
Officer Acosta told us that baby Gabriella wasn't crying. And because it is protocol to escort the paramedics to the hospital, he rode in the ambulance to keep her company.
Gabriella was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center where she was checked out by doctors. A spokesperson for the hospital says a medical assessment showed all indicators as excellent and that Gabriella had stable vital signs and was in good health. The spokesperson says mom and baby were discharged around 3 p.m.
Baby Gabriella, who turns one this Friday, is safe, but the investigation continues. Police dusted the doors of the Jeep for prints and also canvased the neighborhood to see if anyone saw the woman who ditched the vehicle.
Anyone with information is asked to call San Jose police.