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Kidnapped boy found in Vegas
pankaj kumar | October 19, 2008 at 09:43 amby
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LAS VEGAS -- A 6-year-old boy who authorities said was kidnapped by Mexican drug dealers ripped off by the child's grandfather was found in "extremely good condition" after being dropped off near a church, authorities said early today.
Cole Puffinburger was spotted walking in northeast Las Vegas at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday night. Detectives handing out missing persons fliers about the boy receieved a call that someone matching his description was wandering the streets.
"It's just a blessing that this child has been found," Las Vegas Metropolitan police Capt. Vincent Cannito said at an early morning news conference.
Cole was taken from his mother's house Wednesday by three gunmen who had tied up his mother and her boyfriend and ransacked their house. Authorities said the men were motivated by the theft of millions of dollars from them by Cole's maternal grandfather, Clemons Tinnemeyer, who was arrested in Riverside late Friday.
Cole's father, Robert Puffinburger, joined police at their jubliant news conference early Sunday wearing a T-shirt with his son's photo. "I thank this whole community, I can't thank you enough," he said, his voice cracking. "Thank you so much for helping me find my son."
Police took no questions and said they were still investigating the circumstances surrounding Cole's disappearance. On Saturday they said they had served several search warrants at locations they believed the boy was being held and recovered large amounts of cash. They were interviewing Tinnemeyer and another person of interest whom they did not identify.
The brazen kidnapping is a troubling migration of what has become a regular hazard in Mexico. There drug cartels abduct rivals or innocent bystanders for huge ransoms. In the United States such incidents are rare, though authorities in Arizona have been worried about increasing numbers of organized kidnappings of illegal immigrants and their smugglers in Phoenix.
The victims in these cases are often legally compromised. But the image of Cole, a bespectacled, tow-headed blonde youth, has galvanized the community.
Though Cole may be innocent, police said Tinnemeyer was not. They said the former carpenter, who neighbors say moved to Las Vegas from Wisconsin about 15 years ago, was tied to methamphetamine trafficking. Neighbors said they had long wondered why a steady stream of cars pulled into his driveway at all hours.
Ann McKinney once called police to complain about the visitors honking late at night as they pulled up, but authorities said they could do nothing. "They've got something going on in the back," she said.
Neighbors said Tinnemeyer explained he had a recording studio behind his single-story, wood-paneled home. But few believed him. They knew he took his RV on mysterious, weeks-long trips to Mexico, that strange people visited him at all hours, that he was able to afford a new corrugated steel roof without visible employment.
Tinnemeyer had not been seen in the middle-class neighborhood since May. Neighbors said they continued to see his wife, Diane, who works in the lunchroom of a nearby elementary school, and Cole. There was clearly trouble afoot, however.
Family friends who asked not to be identified for safety reasons said that the Tinnemeyer house was burglarized twice recently and that men dumped gasoline in the driveway and lit it on fire