Children carjacked in Atlanta saved by passers-by in frigid weather

Update: Teens arrested in carjacking after infant and young sister dumped along freezing roads

Elizabeth “Tib” Spillane, a former lieutenant with the Atlanta Police Department, couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw a 4-year-old girl running down the middle of Riverdale Road Wednesday evening.

As Spillane drove her husband to the airport, the girl came toward them, wearing only one shoe, while cars whizzed past at 25 and 30 mph.

It was just past 5 p.m. and the air outside was frigid — in the 20s with a wind chill putting temperatures in the single digits. “It was so strange in the sunset, to see this little girl with her hands in the air, running towards the cars that were trying to pass her,” said Spillane, 53. “It looked to me like she was looking for help.”

Then Spillane’s husband, Georgia State University Police Chief Joseph Spillane, got out of the passenger seat and tried to find out where the little girl belonged.

LIVE UPDATES: As temps rise, school districts make decisions for Friday

RELATED:  It’s not over: Georgia DOT warns of ice tonight and Friday

The girl, Arya Davenport, told him, “Somebody stole my mom’s (car) and they put me out, and my little sister is still in the car,” he said. The Spillanes called 911 and gave directions to the dispatcher and within minutes patrol cars from College Park and Clayton County police were on the scene.

It would be another hour and half, however, before police located Arya’s little sister, 1-month-old Ava Wilmer. The infant had been dumped on the side of South Fulton Parkway, still strapped into her pink and black car seat.

The car seat was partway in the road, tipped over onto its side, where it stayed for more than an hour in the icy weather and the growing darkness, as dozens of drivers swerved to avoid her.

One of those drivers was Thamara Booker, 41, of Fairburn. “It is a miracle that no one hit her,” said Booker, who saw the car seat in the road, near I-285, around 5:30 Wednesday evening, as she was driving to work. Like the other drivers around her, she assumed the car seat was empty. “Because of the ice, everyone was driving slow, and had to maneuver around her.”

She found out later, to her horror, that a baby was in that car seat that she spotted. “I felt awful I didn’t stop,” said Booker, a schoolteacher who also works an evening shift for a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, sorting mail at the airport. “I could have saved her from being out there that long.”

Both little girls were sitting in the back of a black Chevy Equinox at a QuikTrip on Riverdale Road Wednesday evening, when their mother, Precious Wilmer, ran inside the store, leaving the engine running. She came out of the store and saw the car being driven away.

As Channel 2 Action News photojournalist Brian Ferguson and reporter Nefertiti Jaquez drove to the QuikTrip to cover the story, they noticed an object by the side of the road. After they learned of the kidnapping, Ferguson jumped in a police cruiser to lead police to the location of the object, which turned out to be Ava’s car seat.

At that point the baby had been out in the cold more than an hour.

Both children appeared unharmed but were taken to Southern Regional Medical Center to determine their condition.

Sgt. Ashanti Marbury, public information officer for the Clayton County Police, said the SUV was recovered on Metropolitan Parkway. Video of the carjacking at the QuikTrip was inconclusive and no one had been arrested as of Thursday evening. She added that “So far no charges have been filed against the mother but our Criminal Investigation Division is still (determining) if there will be charges filed.”

Booker shudders to think what might have happened to those little girls. “If it had been any other day, people would’ve been driving the normal speed limit and this may have turned out differently,” she said.

Former police lieutenant Spillane was also horrified. “Both of these children could have died, and whoever was responsible didn’t care. I’ve been policing for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of bad out of people, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Army veteran drowns while saving fiancee's daughter
Army veteran drowns while saving fiancee's daughter

An Army Reserve member drowned in a Texas lake Saturday as he tried to save his fiancee's 6-year-old daughter, The Dallas Morning News reported. Brandyn Mitchell, 25, dove into Lake Ray Roberts near the north Texas city of Denton to help Keira Herrera get back onto a flotation device, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. "He was already...
Shooting reported in Panama City, Florida
Shooting reported in Panama City, Florida

Police responded Tuesday afternoon to reports of a shooting in Panama City, Florida, according to multiple reports. Multiple agencies were responding to the situation in the 2300 block of Beck Avenue, including the Walton County Sheriff's Office, WJHG reported. Update 2:40 p.m. EDT: Walton County sheriff’s deputies confirmed that a shooting...
Election 2018: Alpharetta voters weigh in on next mayor, governor
Election 2018: Alpharetta voters weigh in on next mayor, governor

Polls in Alpharetta got a bit busier around lunchtime Tuesday. There was a small line forming at the Alpharetta library around 11:30 a.m., full of voters looking to cast their ballots in local and statewide elections. While the entire state is weighing in on the governor’s race, folks in Alpharetta are electing a new mayor and two new council...
Polling place near shooting to remain open for Election Day voters
Polling place near shooting to remain open for Election Day voters

Police were investigating a reported shooting near a northwest Atlanta polling location on Tuesday afternoon. The precinct at Lindsay Street Baptist Church, will remain open but police are on the scene for security and because it’s a crime scene, a Fulton County elections spokeswoman said. Police believe that shooting may have been...
Gwinnett voters cast primary ballots, rain or shine
Gwinnett voters cast primary ballots, rain or shine

Lance Tyler stood in a black raincoat, cheerfully thrusting a sign bearing his name in the air as rain relentlessly pelted Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church on Tuesday. Tyler, a candidate for Gwinnett County state court judge, planned to stay at the polling place all day, rain or shine. READ | Get the latest news on Georgia primaries READ...
More Stories