A Jackson County toddler at the center of a statewide search was found safe in metro Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, more than 10 hours after she was allegedly abducted by her father.
During a news conference, Arcade police Chief Randy Williams announced that Baylee Sue Peeples was in GBI custody and appeared to be OK. Her father, 39-year-old Robert Joseph “Joey” Peeples, dropped the toddler off with a relative in Gwinnett County around 1 p.m., and Baylee’s grandmother and the authorities were notified.
Joey Peeples has not been found, Williams said.
Baylee, who turns 2 next month, was reported abducted about 1:50 a.m. from a home on Rock Forge Road in the city of Arcade, according to police. The GBI issued a Levi’s Call at 5 a.m. and said the girl was believed to be in extreme danger.
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The child’s mother, Tiffany Aycock, told Channel 2 Action News she and Peeples argued early Thursday morning in the driveway of a relative’s home. Peeples told the woman to get in his van or she would not see their daughter again, she said.
She tried to reach for Baylee, but Peeples took off, she told the news station. On his way out of the driveway, Williams said Peeples hit the woman with the van.
During their search, investigators ran down leads from Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee. Williams could not help but smile when announcing Baylee was found.
“I know I jumped up for joy,” he said. “It feels like the weight, you know, is lifted off our shoulders and we’re just happy that Baylee is good. This one has a happy ending, and it’s good to be able to talk about the happy ones.”
Representatives with the Division of Family and Children Services went to Gwinnett on Thursday afternoon to assess the girl’s condition and determine when she can be reunited with her mother. Just after 7 p.m., DFCS told Channel 2 that Baylee is safe, but she was not reunited with her mother.
Williams said he does not know why Peeples took off with Baylee, but he thanked him for turning her over to family. He is facing charges of aggravated assault and kidnapping.
There are questions Williams would like answered before authorities draw the investigation to a close.
“We want to hear his side of the story and find out why he did this,” he said. “We don’t want him to feel that his back is against the wall, because we will work with anybody, but he’s got to come in and tell his side of the story.”
Williams said Peeples has previously been arrested in Gwinnett, DeKalb, Barrow and Clayton counties and has made threats against his on-again, off-again girlfriend in Jackson County, Channel 2 reported.
Peeples is known to have family connections in the Lawrenceville area, but investigators said he could be headed for Mississippi, according to the GBI. His cellphone last pinged at a cell tower in the area of I-85 at Spaghetti Junction at 4:30 a.m.
Family members told police that Peeples has made threats against law enforcement in the past. Williams said he should be considered dangerous, and he did not know if Peeples was armed.
He is believed to be traveling in a 1993 white GMC Vandura van with Georgia tag RIK1620.
Peeples is described as 5-foot-10, 187 pounds with light skin, blue eyes and blonde hair in a buzz cut.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the Arcade Police Department at 706-367-1821.
— Please return to AJC.com for updates.