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Truckers box in Amber Alert father, son

9:16 AM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
  • Austin and Cael Whitehead (Courtesy WRCB Chattanooga)
  • Austin Morris (left) Jim Lowe (Courtesy WRCB Chattanooga)
    
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MARION COUNTY, Tenn. -- A toddler is safe, and his father is in police custody, after a statewide Amber Alert.

The alert was canceled late Wednesday afternoon, when a few quick-thinking truck drivers spotted the pair on Interstate 24.

It started in Houston County, where authorities say 23-year-old Austin Whitehead got into an argument with his wife that turned physical then took their 2-year-old son Cael Whitehead. The father and son traveled more than 150 miles, before being stopped in Marion County.

When an Amber Alert was issued, Jim Lowe took note, but couldn't imagine he'd play a key role in ending the statewide search for a missing toddler.

"About the time I read the Amber Alert the car passed us," said Lowe.

Lowe spotted the teal Pontiac Grand Am on Interstate 24, some 170 miles from where the alert was issued.

Lowe says he knew the man behind the wheel had to be stopped.

"We hollered at a couple other trucks up ahead of us and let them know what was going on," Lowe said. "They kind of held traffic up in front of us. We just stayed in front of him and slowed him down."

Lowe said drivers a few miles back radioed him and team driver Austin Morris to say a Tennessee trooper was closing in, lights flashing.

"He didn't have anywhere to go, unless he ran through us," Lowe said. "He couldn't get through us, so he just kind of eased over and kind of gave up."

Law enforcement across the state was notified earlier after a call came in from Whitehead's wife.

"We went to the residence and found the mother and her 1-year-old child there," says Houston County Sheriff Darrell Allison. "The mother had sustained some injuries. At that point, the mother said he had taken the child from the residence, and the child had no clothing except some underwear."

The boy was in the car when Whitehead was pulled over.

Whitehead was arrested.

The toddler was handed over to child services, where he waited for his mother to make the three hour drive to take him home.

"I'm just glad that little kid is safe at home tonight in his own bed," said Lowe.

Lowe didn't get to meet the boy, but says he hopes any other driver would do the same for his kids.

"I guess that's just where God meant for me to be," Lowe said. "I'd just say there are still a few real truck drivers out here. I wouldn't consider myself a hero."

Austin Whitehead is being held at the Marion County jail, until he can be taken back to Houston County.

Officials have not said why they believe he ran, but he has a criminal history, including an aggravated domestic assault charge.

(WRCB Chattanooga)

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