A doctor's appointment brought Helen Jones out of her Allendale house earlier than usual Tuesday morning. While she waited on the porch for her ride, a man came out of a house across the street, got into a green car and drove away.
"Then a little boy came out and looked around," Jones said. "I said, 'Wait a minute. I wonder if it was that little boy,' " she said, referring to 8-year-old Darrick Charles Brown, who was abducted Monday night, just a few blocks from Jones' house.
A man in the distance scared the little boy back into the house, Jones said, but he came back out a short time later, just after 7 a.m., and began walking toward her.
"When I saw the little boy, and I saw the green car, I said 'Wait a minute,'" said Jones, who realized that the little boy approaching was the one who had been kidnapped. "Thank God I'd seen the picture on the news."
Darrick had been walking with friends near his home in the 300 block of Gwynn Ave. at about 6:30 p.m. Monday, when, witnesses told police, he was taken by someone driving a green Ford Taurus, Baltimore police said. Tuesday morning he was found unharmed in the 300 block of Lyndhurst St., about a half-mile from his West Baltimore home, said Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman.
"He was hungry," said Jones, who said that Darrick told her that he was left alone in the vacant house while he was sleeping. When he awoke and realized he was alone, Jones said, he escaped. "The little boy, to me, he was brave."
Darrick called his grandmother from Jones' home and police were notified. Jones, who has lived on Lyndhurst for over a year, said she did not know that the house where Darrick was being held was vacant. No one ever entered or left the house, she said.
Police have arrested 20-year-old Nathaniel Booker and charged him with kidnapping, kidnapping a child under the age of 16, reckless endangerment, first- and second-degree assault, false imprisonment and extortion. Moses said detectives are still "actively searching" for Raheem Taylor, 21, as a possible accomplice.
A light green newer-model Ford Taurus with two people inside stopped near Darrick and his friends, Moses said. One of the people inside the car got out, grabbed Darrick and threw him into the trunk before the vehicle sped away, he said. The car had not been located by Tuesday evening, police said.
Police said the suspects are not related to the boy, but Moses said the abduction was not random. He said the boy was targeted and that his abductors demanded ransom. Police declined to comment further about the motivation for the kidnapping. Tuesday afternoon police were inspecting the vacant home were Darrick was found.
The ransom demand was for drugs and tens of thousands of dollars, said a law enforcement source who is not authorized to speak about the case. Police are trying to learn more about the boy's family, who were not previously on the radar of city law enforcement, the source said.
Taylor was found guilty of drug distribution in 2009 and sentenced to three years in prison. Booker was recently released from prison, where he was serving a five-year sentence for armed robbery.
Darrick's extended family gathered Tuesday afternoon at the boy's Gwynn Avenue home to celebrate his safe return.
"He seems to be doing very good," said Darrick's cousin LaTonya Blue. "He's just very, very excited to see his family, know he's safe and secure."
Blue said that the family was trying not to discuss the abduction with Darrick in too much detail. "We just wanted to keep it as normal as possible for him," Blue said. "He's very outgoing, playful. He seems to be the same type of kid he was before everything happened."
City Councilwoman Helen Holton, whose district includes the area where the abduction took place, was disturbed by the news. "We live in different times," she said. "When I grew up, when we went out to play, the door wasn't locked, and the neighbors were on watch. I'm just in shock."
Holton said police had not communicated with her about the incident, but that she saw the Amber Alert on the Beltway while driving home.