Thanks to the help of a good Samaritan, a stolen car with an unharmed 10-month-old boy still in it was found hours after police issued a statewide Amber alert early Sunday.
Just before leaving the home of relatives in Compton at 12:45 a.m., the infant's parents put Dino Oscar Santos in his car seat in the back of their 1990 Honda and started the car, authorities said. They then went back into the house briefly to get their other child.
In that interval, police said, the Honda was stolen.
The car, with the baby still strapped inside, was found abandoned about seven hours later in the parking lot of a Norwalk hamburger stand, sheriff's deputies said.
The infant was taken to Long Beach Memorial Hospital for observation and was in good condition, a spokeswoman said. He was expected to be released today.
Authorities said they were still looking for suspects Sunday afternoon.
"It was a stroke of luck" that broke the case, said Sheriff's Lt. Joe Impellizeri. At daybreak the Amber alert had produced many leads, but none was panning out, he said.
Then Dennis Root called. The Missouri man, visiting friends in Norwalk, woke up at 5 a.m. to go to a local doughnut shop. As he got into his pickup, Root noticed a black patent-leather day planner in the truck's flatbed.
Root and his hosts decided to call authorities because the planner had several personal items inside, including a driver's license and credit cards. A sheriff's deputy looked at the planner and phoned a number from its address book, which belonged to Dino Santos, the missing infant's father.
"This good Samaritan wanted to return this day planner. The pieces fell into place after that," said Sheriff's Cmdr. Willie Miller.
Authorities immediately began combing the area. Within 30 minutes the missing Honda was found with its windows rolled up a few doors from where Root's truck was parked. The child was crying and dehydrated, officials said.
Luckily, authorities said, little Dino was found before the morning chill gave way to a warm day, with temperatures in the mid-80s.
"As hot as it was today, that baby would've suffocated," Root said. "I have four sons. I'm glad I was up to have seen that little fella. I'm glad they got their baby back."