A Clearwater couple who told police their 3-year-old son disappeared in a stolen car on Wednesday are out of jail.
And Angelica Marrero, the boy's mother, on Thursday expressed remorse for making up a bogus story. Marrero told reporters she lied in hopes of getting Clearwater police to find her car, a white, Ford Fusion, quickly.
The child was never in any danger. He and his 4-year-old sister were in day care in Pinellas Park at the time.
"I'm sorry for all of this," Marrero said Thursday after she was released on a surety bond from the Pinellas County Jail. "I really do apologize to the media for making everyone worried about my child."
Marrero, 24, and Nestor Badillo, 27, were charged with misusing 911 and making a false police report. Marrero also was charged with possession of marijuana. Both have been released on surety bond.
Badillo said Thursday he still did not know what was going on.
"I wish I knew," Badillo said. "I left work, and I was placed under arrest for no apparent reason."
Clearwater police responded to a call of a reported car theft in the 1300 block of Boylan Avenue Wednesday afternoon, authorities said. Marrero told police officers the couple's 3-year-old son was in the backseat when the vehicle was taken.
Police immediately launched a manhunt for the car, which was spotted and eventually stopped by law enforcement officers when the driver attempted to go in the wrong direction on U.S. 19 near Curlew Road.
The driver of the car, Stevie Gamble Jr., was charged with grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding, reckless driving and driving with a suspended or revoked license. He also was released from the PInellas County Jail on a surety bond Thursday night.
Shortly after the arrests Clearwater police investigators said they suspected the incident stemmed from a drug deal.
On Thursday Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter said his detectives were uncertain drugs were involved. Slaughter confirmed Marrero and Badillo's car was taken from their home Wednesday. But the rest was a lie, police said.
More than 50 Clearwater police officers participated in the search. Other law enforcement agencies also were involved in the search for the boy and thousands of dollars were spent, the chief said.
"I would spend that money to find a kid," Slaughter said. "It's not something I don't think was appropriate if the kid was in fact missing, but it surely is a complete waste of resources when somebody fabricates a lie and causes those….that impact that happened."
According to authorities, the couple's car was stolen in January and officers found it, but the person who stole the car got away. Then yesterday it happened again.
"Because the vehicle was stolen, it took them about two days to find it, and then the second time I wasn't going to have them get away," Marrero said.
Marrero said she wanted officers to react urgently.
"I think it's just a representation of the fact that they have no credibility," Slaughter said.
"I'm just happy that everything will be cleared out in it's do time," Badillo said.
Slaughter said the police department plans to recover the expenses for the bogus search by filing for restitution. The chief said his effort to recoup cost for the search should not discourage residents from reporting crimes.
According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, the 3-year-old boy and his 4-year-old sister are with a relative and safe.
The agency confirmed to Action News the Child Protection Investigation Division of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating this as a result of yesterday's incident.
Action News contacted the sheriff's office, which would not confirm what DCF stated to us.