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Locksmith saves toddler bound in packing tape inside locked car | News

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Locksmith saves toddler bound in packing tape inside locked car

HALL COUNTY, Ga. (WXIA-TV) -- An 18-year-old mother is accused of taping up her toddler with packing tape and leaving him in a car for hours.

The toddler is OK, but the mother, Grace An, is now sitting in a Hall County jail cell.

Detectives and witnesses said An wrapped her 16-month-old son in cellophane packing tape. The tape was wrapped around his face -- covering his mouth -- and around his wrists and ankles. 

And then, investigators say, she left him in her car.

Later, Volley Collins, a locksmith, opened the car, and found the toddler taped up, and on the back floorboard, out of view.

Here's what happened, according to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and witnesses:

On Wednesday, the mother drove to the dead end of Ahaluna Drive and parked.

Then, according to the accounts, she locked her tied-up toddler inside the car and walked down the tree-covered hill to Lake Lanier, to sit and think -- for hours.

When it got dark she went to nearby houses asking to use a phone to call a locksmith, saying she had locked her keys in the car, never mentioning that her boy was in the car.

Homeowners on that secluded stretch along the lake refused to open their doors to a stranger.

One of the homeowners did call a locksmith for her, but also called 911 to report a suspicious person.

The locksmith who was called -- Volley Collins, of Ace Lock & Safety Security, in Oakwood.  Investigators say Collins probably saved the boy’s life.

Collins arrived a few moments before a Hall County Sheriff's Deputy arrived.

"I unlocked the car, reached in to get the keys out, and I heard a baby crying in the back seat," Collins said Thursday.  "I took my flashlight, looked back there, sure enough, there’s a baby in the back seat."

Collins said he and the deputy never would have noticed the toddler because the boy wasn't just in the back, he was on the floorboard of the back seat, out of view.  Collins said the mother never mentioned he was there, and Collins believes she thought the boy would not be discovered.  But then the boy cried, audible despite the tape covering his mouth, just as Collins was opening the car door.

"The only reason I looked in the back seat was, I heard a baby cry.... It's just, you're kind of stunned, you don't know what to think.  It's just, how could anybody do this to a baby?  And what was she gonna do with the baby?"

Collins said the deputy immediately handcuffed the mother, and cut the tape off of her son.

The spokeswoman for the Hall County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Nicole Bailes, said the mother talked with investigators, but did not explain why she bound her son with tape, or why she locked him in the car, or what she was planning to do next if she hadn't also locked her keys in the car.  So as of now, Dep. Bailes said, detectives have no idea what the mom was up to.

"Nothing that anyone has confessed to.  Speculation on our part was that there would be a tragedy involving the lake, ultimately.... Obviously we're going to factor in the mother's age, and the fact that she has a 16 month old child that she's trying to raise on her own.  That, in itself, is going to cause a lot of undue stress for a single parent.  And so, again, without speculating, we're going to tie that in as a factor as to the possibilities of what her mindset was.... I feel like if that child had been there much longer, then, yes, a tragedy would have been the outcome."

Dep. Bailes said the mother and child live with her parents, near another section of the lake, about seven miles from the spot where she was arrested.

"To the best of my knowledge, there's not a father [of the toddler] in the picture.... No indication that [the mother's parents] were aware of what was going on," Bailes said.  "There's no precursors that anything like this was going to happen."

Volley Collins said he can't get out of his mind the sight of the child bound in several layers of packing tape.

"All you can think is, you know, God had a hand in it to put us there at the same time.... Dumb luck, spiritual luck, whatever you want to call it, I'll call it whatever it is -- it's just good luck on the baby's part."

Grace An is charged, initially, with First Degree Child Cruelty, Reckless Conduct, and False Imprisonment.  Bailes said other charges are possible as detectives continue their investigation. An's son is in the care of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.

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