Couple who kidnapped Ga. toddler wanted to raise him as their own, police say


Ga. 1-year-old rescued after kidnapping, police say

CHAMBLEE, Ga. (WSB) – A 1-year-old boy is safe and sound after being found 70 miles from home.

Police said the child was kidnapped over the weekend in Chamblee by a married couple who wanted to raise the boy as their own.

It’s not the first attempted kidnapping the suspects may be linked to.

“None of us can begin to fathom the level of pure evil that must burn in the heart of someone that would tear a child from his mother’s arms,” said Chamblee Assistant Police Chief Mike Beller about the DeKalb County couple accused of abducting the child at gunpoint.

“I’m still surprised at times by the depravity and selfishness that people are capable of.”

Chamblee Police said it all happened in broad daylight while the mother pushed her son, whose name is Mateo, in his stroller Saturday.

The mother told police a man jumped out of an SUV and pointed a gun at her.

“She fought them tooth and nail,” Beller said. “She took his gun and tried to shoot him with it.”

The mother told police that a woman dressed like a man then got out of the SUV and grabbed the boy.

Several different agencies, including the FBI, GBI and Georgia State Patrol, all worked to find Mateo and the suspects.

Officials eventually tracked them to a home in Carroll County.

On Monday, police released new dashcam video of the moment authorities found the SUV, the suspects and Mateo, who was not hurt.

“Mateo will never remember what happened to him,” Beller said. “He is undamaged, unharmed and made whole.”

The suspects, a married couple identified as Maynor Dario Valera Zuniga and Kristin Nicole Valera Zuniga, now face child abduction charges.

Police said they could face even more charges because, according to investigators, the couple tried to snatch another child from a woman in the same area, on the same day as Mateo’s abduction.

“He jumped out with the gun and challenged her, and she ran so fast,” Beller said of that case.

Police said they don’t know who that woman is, but they’re encouraging her to come forward.

They said that would be another attempted kidnapping charge against the couple.

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