Employees at a Catonsville car dealership were relieved to learn Tuesday evening that a toddler they discovered wandering in the area the previous Friday had been returned safely to his family.
Technician Steve Barrett was standing outside behind Russell BMW, at 6700 Baltimore National Pike, the morning of July 8 when he spotted the child wandering and brought him inside, said Jamie Brenneman, warranty administrator at the dealership, who helped take care of the boy after he was found
"I was sitting in my office and I saw this little boy running down the hallway," she said. "He had no shoes or socks on, no shirt. All he had on was a very dirty diaper and some shorts."
"I have an 11-month-old and I can't believe it," said Brenneman, a Glen Burnie resident. "It just broke my heart. I felt so bad.
"You didn't know how long he had been out there," she said. "We were looking for his parents. We couldn't find them."
Police were called to the scene at around 10:40 a.m. Friday, said Lt. Nancy Storke of the Wilkens Police Station.
After police arrived, an officer and technician Sean O'Brien sat with the boy, age 2, in a play area at the dealership, Brenneman said.
Over the course of two and half hours, police searched the area for the boy's relatives, she said.
While police searched, dealership employees got the boy animal crackers from the vending machine, changed his diaper and bought wipes and more diapers in case he was there for a while, Brenneman said.
Using dealership money, Brenneman said she and warranty clerk Mary Wenck went to the Babies 'R' Us store in the nearby 40 West Plaza shopping center and bought him a T-shirt, shorts and socks.
"Everybody in the dealership was really involved," she said. "He's a sweet little boy. He really didn't say too much, so we couldn't really ask him too much."
Storke said police never received the call from frantic parents or other family members that normally would occur in a missing child case.
An officer canvassing the area found an open apartment door in the 1200 block of Westerlee Place, with a child's toys strewn about, Storke said.
There, police found the boy's father and another relative sleeping, Storke said.
The apartment complex is several hundred yards away from the dealership and there is no direct access road from the complex to Baltimore National Pike.
The boy's mother had dropped him off at 4:45 a.m. to go to work that morning, she said, and the toddler was able to open the apartment door while his family members slept, she said.
The deadbolt on the door was not in place, she said.
Capt. John Spiroff, the Wilkens commander, said the boy was returned to his parents' custody Friday.
He said charges are pending against the man as of July 12, but declined to elaborate further.
Brenneman, who had continued to worry about the child, said she hopes he is safe now.
"Everybody was just so in love with this little boy," she said.