COOLIDGE, Ariz. -- The parents of a 2-year-old boy who was the center of an Amber Alert Tuesday night talked about the traumatic 16 hours that he was missing.
"It's an emptiness, that's the only way I can describe it," Andrea Gloria said. "It's like somebody just ripped your heart out."
Police said Eric Warrior Smith Jr. was taken by his mother's 19-year-old cousin who was baby-sitting at the family's home in Coolidge, southeast of the Valley.
The family had taken Anna Johnson into their home about three weeks ago while she got back on her feet from a bad relationship. They still have no idea why Johnson would not only take off with the boy but then allegedly leave him in the car she dumped in the desert.
An Amber Alert for the toddler was heard throughout the Valley Tuesday night as police searched for the alleged kidnapper.
"That was a good portion of me being lost, but I told myself, no, no," Eric Smith Sr. said.
In the early morning hours Wednesday, a helicopter spotted the family van dumped in the desert near 51st Avenue and Ray Road -- the toddler left alone and the suspect on the run.
"I think she should be punished for what she's done," Smith said.
The sleeping toddler was finally returned to his parents.
"All I wanted to do was just hold him," Andrea said.
"He turned his head to me and I said, 'You're OK. I'm proud of you,'" Smith said. "'That's my warrior,' that's what I told him."
His mom said the only thing that gave her some peace about the fact that her son was left alone in the middle of the desert is that police said they found him fast asleep.
Investigators are not sure why Johnson took the boy. A multi-agency operation is underway to find her.
Johnson is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. She has long black hair and brown eyes.