DeKalb County

Trooper says God put him in right place to help save kidnapped infant

CHAMBLEE, Ga. — Chamblee police say they are searching for a victim in an attempted child abduction. Police believe the same couple accused of snatching a 1-year-old boy over the weekend may have tried to take another child that same day.

Police told Channel 2′s Audrey Washington that they believe the victim didn’t come forward because of immigration concerns.

Chamblee police say a married couple from Brookhaven snatched the boy on Saturday. Hours later he was found unharmed.

But investigators say earlier that same day, the couple also tried to steal another baby right in front of that baby’s mother.

“He jumped out and challenged her with a gun and she ran so fast,” said Chamblee Assistant Chief of Police Mike Beller.

Officers are still searching for that mother because she never called 911. Police believe she may be undocumented and therefore too scared to report the attempted abduction.

“We try to protect all of our citizens of this city regardless of their immigration status,” Beller said.


As police search for that victim, we’re hearing from the Georgia State Patrol trooper who saved the boy who was kidnapped.

“When you saw that baby, what happened inside you?” Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne asked GSP Trooper First Class Johnathon Nelms.

“Everything changed because I got kids of my own,” Nelms said. “I got back to the house later on that evening. (I got) to sit back and think about everything and you just want to give a hug to your kids. A big old hug and tell them you love them and never in this world will they ever understand why daddy gave them a little bit of extra love that day.”

Nelms said he also has another child on the way. But on Saturday, Nelms helped save 1-year-old Mateo, who had been kidnapped at gunpoint just hours before.

The trooper said the couple tried to disguise the boy.

“He was dressed up like a female infant, had the little pigtails in the hair,” Nelms said.

Nelms played a big role in the rescue, being the first on the scene.

“Sgt. Michael Allen had called me and said there was an Amber Alert in the area and asked me if I would go check a resident,” Nelms said.

He said Allen put him in touch with Beller, who had worked the case hard.

Still in weekend clothes, Nelms followed leads to Carroll County and when he started his stakeout at the address, Beller told him he was about five minutes out.

That’s when Nelms said the red Acura he was looking for rolled out and came face-to-face with his trooper car.

“I got out of the car, drew my service pistol and started giving commands for the driver to get out of the vehicle and get on the ground,” Nelms said.

Nelms told Winne that as he got out of his car, Beller arrived and quickly took suspect Maynor Dario Valera Zuniga into custody, and Nelms went to suspect Kristin Nicole Valera Zuniga’s door.

“You think the man upstairs put you in position to save that child?” Winne asked Nelms.

“Yes sir I do. Without a doubt in my mind. With the good Lord’s blessing that day, everything lined up just right for the information to be passed out to the officers it needed to be given to, and the investigators it needed to be given to, where that child could be returned safe,” Nelms said. “If Beller hadn’t arrived at the time that he did, and I hadn’t got there when I arrived, that car would have been gone and that young’un would probably have been gone.”