ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — After a 2-year-old girl was abducted from a Rocky Mount parking lot and driven out of the state, an officer in Virginia helped bring her home safely Tuesday. On Wednesday, police questioned a suspect as the girl's family spoke to WRAL in their home.
Police said a man stole Mariah Poland's mother's car while Mariah was in the backseat. It happened when Amy Calvin stepped out of her car at a store and left it running. Mariah's father, Donnie Poland Jr., said the mother did not go inside and was a few feet away.
"I just want people to know this is not a neglect issue," Donnie Poland Jr. said. "It's just a simple mistake that could have turned fatal."
An officer spotted someone driving the car in Richmond, Va., and quickly turned around to follow the vehicle. According to police, the suspect abandoned the car and left the child strapped in the backseat. Her family said they are extremely grateful to that officer.
"My whole heart goes out to him, because he could have missed her in the blink of an eye and no one would have found her," Donnie Poland Jr. said.
"We'd like that police officer to see what he has saved, because there is no doubt he saved this little girl's life," said Mariah's grandfather, Donnie Poland.
Investigators said it does not appear the family knew the suspect. One of the people wanted for questioning, Latesha Louis, talked to Richmond investigators on Wednesday but hasn't been charged with any crimes, police said. She is assisting in the investigation, police said.
"We want him to be caught, but all I care about is my little girl," Donnie Poland Jr. said. "It would be nice to know he's not out there to take somebody else's (child.)"
Mariah's parents said that the toddler was still a little shaken, but she was doing well on Wednesday. They also said they want to thank everyone who helped bring her home. Rocky Mount police said they don't expect to press any charges against them.
Police are looking for the suspected thief -- a black man last seen wearing a black toboggan cap, a dark heavy jacket and black jeans. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Rocky Mount Police Department at 252-977-1111 or local law enforcement.