Gary Zielinski thought someone was playing a cruel prank on him early Monday when he looked down on his friend's porch and saw a baby in a car seat, wrapped in a pink blanket and a pink coat, with a pacifier in her mouth.
It was only 7:15 a.m., and Zielinski and his friend Ray Harper stared in disbelief as they watched the infant — later identified in an Amber Alert as missing 3-month-old Dakota Grimes — peacefully asleep on the cold porch of the house.
"The Lord was on my side," Zielinski, 65, told the Free Press. "Because I usually don't go down there that early and wake up Ray. Something told me to get up and go that way. God was on my side this morning and he woke my butt up. It was a miracle we saved that child. It was a miracle we saved her."
Police and the FBI were searching for the infant who had disappeared when her father's vehicle was carjacked several hours earlier from outside an east-side Detroit convenience store.
According to police, the 30-year-old father left the engine running in his white Chevrolet Impala, with the baby inside, about 12:54 a.m. while he went into a mini-mart. When he returned, the vehicle was gone — and so was Dakota.
The car was found Monday afternoon in Harper Woods and one person was taken into custody. A search was continuing for other suspects.
Zielinski said he thinks the day was full of luck and miracles.
It was only 39 degrees outside, according to the National Weather Service, when the baby was found on the porch. Had she stayed in the cold much longer, Zielinski said, he isn't sure what might have happened to her. He also said the neighborhood is marred with vacant homes, including two to the immediate left and right of where she was found.
"We don't know how long that baby was sitting on that porch and there's two vacant houses on either side of us and they could have stuck that baby in one of the houses and we would have never found her," he said.
Zielinski said he and Harper work as contractors and he usually makes the trek from his house, a few blocks away from Harper, to get their day started. On Monday, he went a bit earlier than usual, he recalled.