Suspect photos released after kidnapping in stolen van

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Police release surveillance photo of kidnapping suspect. By Alicia Barron Police release surveillance photo of kidnapping suspect. By Alicia Barron
A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland
A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland
A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland
A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland A Valley mother and father have been reunited with their three children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning. By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A mother and father have been reunited with their three young children after the vehicle the kids were in was stolen early Tuesday morning.

While the children have been found safe, the suspect remains on the loose.

It happened at about 5 a.m. at a 7-Eleven. The parents reportedly went inside the store to get milk and juice, leaving the kids -- ages 2, 4 and 6 -- in the running SUV. While the parents were in the store, a man stole that SUV with the kids inside. It's not clear if the suspect knew the children were in the vehicle at the time.

The mother, Jamie Gettner-Hendrickson, said she saw a man on the corner as she went into the store, but didn't think anything of it. When she went to pay for her purchases, the cashier told her a man had gotten into her car. Gettner-Hendrickson said she ran out and tried to jump on the SUV as the suspect pulled away.

"I couldn't get to it," she said tearfully. "I wasn't strong enough."

A massive search was immediately launched for the children.

At about 5:30, a resident in the area of 13th Street and McDowell Road called the police, saying he had found the three kids.

"I saw three little shadows about three houses down," said Kevin Stage, who was on his was on his way to work when he spotted the children.

"I figured I'd better turn around and see what's going on," he said. "I went on down and there were three little kids. One of them was in a car seat. ... They asked me if I could help them. ... They said that somebody dropped them off and their mom and dad were at a 7-Eleven waiting for them."

Stage took the cold and scared children to his house and called the police, who then picked them up and took them back to their parents. The kids did not appear to be hurt.

According initial police reports, the 6-year-old boy said the suspect pulled over and told him to get out and to knock on the door of a home with Christmas lights. The suspect then removed the car seat holding the youngest child. The little boy got out with his baby sisters, the two older kids dragging the car seat. Stage found them a short time later.

"He is so strong," Gettner-Hendrickson said of her young son.

Gettner-Hendrickson said her husband works at Sky Harbor International Airport and that she and her family have only been in Phoenix for four days. She said she was taking her husband to work when they stopped at the convenience store. She said they were in the store for just a couple of minutes.

The suspect, who remains at large, is described as a black man, 20 to 26 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 140 pounds. He has a thin build, short hair and is clean-shaven. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and a red shirt with a drawing of a skull on the front.

Police say the suspect is a known transient who goes by the name "Easy."

The missing vehicle is a white 2006 Ford Freestyle wagon with temporary Colorado license plates.

Silent Witness is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspect.

If you have any information about the missing Freestyle or the whereabouts of "Easy," please call the Phoenix Police Department or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.