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FORT WRIGHT, Ky. - When Kelly Garrett walked out of the Speedway in Fort Wright and saw her SUV missing, she got the shock of her life.
Luckily, her 4-year-old daughter, Briyah, slept through the whole thing.
"My heart died. I was panicking. I said, ‘my baby!' I started screaming. I'm just like, ‘Call the police!' " Garrett told 9 On Your Side's Tom McKee.
"Horrible. Worst thing ever," Garrett recalled as she sat with her daughter and the girl's father outside their Covington home Thursday afternoon.
When two 17-year-old boys stole Garrett's black Chevy Traiblazer at about 1 a.m. Thursday, they apparently didn't see Briyah sleeping in the back seat.
Police tracked the SUV through the cellphone Garrett had left inside, and within 15 minutes they located it and Briyah – still asleep and unharmed – in a Kroger parking lot in Fort Mitchell.
A happy family reunion – daughter, mom and dad - quickly followed at the Fort Mitchell fire station.
"She came running to us, just hugging on us," said Bryan Golsby.
"I grabbed her and I hugged her and I was kissing -- me and him and her -- we were holding her and holding each other holding her," said Garrett.
"She didn't really know what was going on by her being asleep the whole time in the car," said Golsby. "She didn't really know what was happening, but it was good. It's a blessing that she's back."
Garrett's brief nightmare started when she stopped for nachos and cheese. She said she went inside for just seconds – just long enough for the teens to take the SUV and Briyah.
According to Fort Wright police Sgt. Michael Knight, the teens later told police that they drove about 15 minutes before they noticed the child in the back seat, and they panicked and quickly ditched the car.
Police and K-9 units swarmed the area and a Hamilton County Sheriff's helicopter joined the search for the suspects.
At about 6 a.m., Covington Officer Mark Richards observed a Rumpke truck driver talking to two juveniles that matched the suspects' description.
Police said the juveniles had borrowed the Rumpke driver's phone. One juvenile called his father; the other called his mother. Then the Rumpke driver called 911.
At that time, Richards approached and the juveniles ran. Richards caught them and took them into custody.
"They've acknowledged to us that they, in fact, saw the helicopters, heard the K-9, saw the officers and just unfortunately for us ... dodged our efforts to apprehend them," Knight said.
The teenagers face kidnapping charges and could be tried as adults. If so, they could face up to 20 years in prison. They are scheduled to appear in court Friday morning for arraignment.
"Both individuals are close to being 18 years of age, so the decision ultimately will be up to our commonwealth attorney to determine if they are elevated to an adult status," Knight said. "The kidnapping offense itself is a Class B crime in the state of Kentucky. If you're an adult, typical punishment is 15 to 20 years."
Knight said authorities did not consider this a prank.
"Absolutely not -- and we intend to make sure that they understand the seriousness of this matter," Knight said. "They very well may have thought it was just a vehicle they were gathering, but again you have a mother who abides by life's rules, so to speak. She pulls the vehicle up next to the building. She's only inside Speedway for 20 seconds, but it's a prime example for the rest of the parents to see that in a matter of 20 seconds or less what can happen.
"She walks out. Her car's gone. Her child's gone.
"You can only imagine the trauma and the shock that she had succumbed to at that point."
No charges are planned against Garrett, police said.
Briyah's parents said she was playing and acting normally.
They vowed to never leave a child alone in a car again.
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