UPDATE: Truck Driver aids in locating missing toddler - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Truck Driver aids in locating missing toddler

Posted: Updated:
Austin Morris (left) Jim Lowe (right) Austin Morris (left) Jim Lowe (right)

MARION COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- 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 he took their two-year-old son, traveling 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," says 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 says. "They kind of held traffic up in front of us. We just stayed in front of him and slowed him down."

Lowe says 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 says. "He couldn't get through us, so he just kind of eased over and kind of gave up."

Authorities say the driver, 23-year-old Austin Whitehead, had taken his son, two-year-old Cael Whitehead, from the family's Houston County home.

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

"We went to the residence and found the mother and her one-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," says 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 says. "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 we do know whitehead has a criminal history, including an aggravated domestic assault charge.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.

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