Nikina Lazenby made a tearful plea earlier today for the safe return of her 1-year-old son, Tremayne Peak, who police said vanished Monday night with a friend of Lazenby's — whose own baby had been placed in foster care.
"It's a hard thing when you don't know where your child is," Lazenby said, as tears rolled down her cheeks. "My son is only 1 year old, he's defenseless, he can't walk, he can't do anything. I just want my son back."
Late last night, she got her wish. Police said Tremayne was found, apparently unharmed, in Germantown, Md., following a bizarre, convoluted journey.
The boy's kidnapper, Vanessa Perez, who is Lazenby's friend, remained on the loose after she was spotted by authorities in Maryland, said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives.
The dramatic tale began at 8 p.m. Monday, when Perez picked up Tremayne from Lazenby's home on 41st Street near Girard Avenue in West Philadelphia, said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives.
About 9 p.m. Lazenby called Perez and asked when she would be back with her baby. Perez said that she was close by and would arrive back shortly, Walker said.
But Perez never showed, and a frightened Lazenby called police.
Walker said Perez took Tremayne to a house in Mt. Airy, where she told a former lover that the boy was actually their offspring, said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives.
Perez' former beau, whose name was not released, bought the ruse and suggested that she and Tremayne drive with him down to his new home in Maryland, Walker said.
Before the newly-formed family left for Maryland, they posed for a picture that was taken by the sister of Perez' former lover.
That photo proved to be Perez' undoing. When Tremayne's picture was televised on the news yesterday, the woman recognized him and called police.
Walker said police managed to get in touch with the man who was with Perez and Tremayne. He provided his address, and a Rockville, Md., FBI agent was sent to the house.
When Perez spotted the agent, she handed Tremayne over to her male companion and then fled in a black pick-up truck, Walker said.
The boy was taken to an area hospital for observation. It was unclear when he would be allowed to return to Philadelphia.
Walker said the FBI is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Perez on kidnapping charges. "She's now a fugitive, and she will be processed by the U.S. Attorney's Office," he added.