Cops find stolen SUV, but Clarkston 1-year-old still missing

Credit: Clarkston Police Department

Credit: Clarkston Police Department

It took maybe 30 seconds for the family of Blaise Barnett to take their eyes off the 1-year-old boy as they unloaded groceries early Wednesday morning, and he was gone.

In that time, they say someone climbed into the driver’s seat of their gray Ford Explorer and took off with the toddler — wearing only a diaper and a black shirt with blue dinosaurs — still strapped in his car seat. An Amber Alert was issued for the child early Wednesday, and for 10 hours police had no leads in the case.

Shortly before noon, a tipster followed a hunch and located the stolen SUV a few miles away. But Blaise was not inside, Clarkston police officials confirmed during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The Explorer, which had paper tags, was obscured by bushes at the vacant Brannon Hill Condominiums complex along Memorial College Avenue, police said. It was towed from the scene by a wrecker, and Clarkston police later confirmed the child’s car seat was also missing from the vehicle.

James Dent told Channel 2 Action News he first spotted a man walking in the area, which drew his attention to the stolen vehicle. Dent said he tried to approach the man, but he ran off shouting. Clarkston police found the man and questioned him, but released him a short time later.

“I just kept saying this is a dream. This just can’t be real,” Xavier Barnett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from outside his Clarkston apartment as the search for his son continued into Wednesday night. “I just broke down. Please, bring him home. The car don’t even matter, just bring my son home.”

Blaise Barnett was reported missing at 1 a.m. from the Parc 1000 apartments at 1000 Montreal Road. According to a police report, Blaise’s parents were running bags of groceries to their apartment and returned to the parking lot to find their vehicle and their son gone. His father told police he carried his 3-year-old nephew inside first and was coming back for the toddler.

“He was in there for probably like 30 seconds, maybe, and within those 30 seconds he came back outside and the car was gone with Blaise in it,” Deonna Bray, the child’s mother, told the AJC.

The vehicle was not left running, but its keys were in the cupholder, according to the report. Blaise was strapped into the black-and-tan car seat and the blanket was wrapped around his legs, his parents told police.

The GBI issued the alert, known as a Levi’s Call in Georgia, on behalf of the Clarkston Police Department on Wednesday morning. The Barnett and Bray families and their friends searched for Blaise all morning and afternoon alongside police officers, going door to door to speak with neighbors in the area, Clarkston officials said. They planned to hold a vigil Wednesday night.

The case is reminiscent of the abduction of 1-year-old Royalty Grisby in DeKalb County earlier this year. Grisby was kidnapped when her mother’s car was stolen in March and was considered missing for more than 12 hours. The girl was found when passersby heard her crying on the porch of a home in Lithonia and contacted police. A 14-year-old was arrested and charged in the abduction, and police have not ruled out the possibility of a second suspect.

Clarkston police said they have devoted all their resources to Wednesday’s case, including patrol officers and detectives, Chief Christine Hudson said. DeKalb County police, the GBI and the FBI are also looking for Blaise.

“This is now a nationwide search,” the chief said.

“Waiting, that is the hardest part,” Deonna Bray said. “Not knowing. The waiting.”



Anyone who spots the child is asked to call Clarkston police at 404-557-8956 or dial 911.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.