Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2023


Kidnapped boy found unharmed

Police say the investigation is shifting to find those involved in kidnapping, drugs



Robert Puffinburger, left, stands with officers and detectives who helped to bring home his son, Cole. Cole was found at the intersection of 17th and Oakey just before 11 p.m. Saturday. The 6-year-old was abducted from his home Wednesday morning.

Updated Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008 | 2:44 a.m.

Cole Puffinburger found

A Metro Police car sits at the intersection of 17th and Oakey, where 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger was found just before 11 p.m. Saturday. Cole had been missing since Wednesday morning after he was abducted from his home. Launch slideshow »

Audio Clip

  • Metro Police news conference Sunday

Audio Clip

  • Metro Police news conference Saturday
Click to enlarge photo

Jesus Gastelum

Click to enlarge photo

Clemens Fred Tinnemeyer

A Neighborhood In Fear

Neighbors of Cole Puffinburger talk about his kidnapping.

A four-day search for a missing 6-year-old boy snatched from his house at gunpoint Wednesday came to a close late Saturday night when he was found unharmed.

Police said detectives were passing out fliers with information about Cole's disappearance when authorities received a call at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday that a boy matching Cole's description was walking in the area of 17th and Oakey. It was Cole.

"Cole is in extremely good condition," police Capt. Vincent Cannito said at a news conference at 12:30 a.m. Sunday to announce details in the case.

The boy was taken to University Medical Center as a precaution.

"As soon as we got Cole into custody, the first thing to do was to ensure his health and safety, which is being done at this time,” Cannito said.

Cole's father, Robert Puffinburger, spoke during the news conference Sunday morning. He said he and a group of friends had just returned home after passing out fliers -- then came the call from Metro Police that Cole had been found.

"I can't give enough gratitude to the entire city," he said, his eyes tearing up. "Thank you so much for helping me find my son."

Robert Puffinburger said early this morning he hadn't seen Cole since he was found. He wouldn't comment on whether his son would be returning to his home or his mother's home.

"I’m just glad he is home and in the right hands and I can’t wait to see him,” he said.

Police gave no information about how Cole got to the 17th and Oakey area or where he had been kept since his Wednesday morning abduction.

He wouldn't comment on his relationship with the boy's maternal grandfather, 51-year-old Clemens Fred Tinnemeyer, who was arrested late Friday in Riverside, Calif. Metro Police have said they believe Cole's kidnapping was linked to Tinnemeyer's drug deals with Mexican nationals and that there are millions of dollars involved.

Tinnemeyer was taken to the Central Detention Center in the city of San Bernardino.

Police didn't know Saturday whether Tinnemeyer had a lawyer. He was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Monday in Riverside.

Cannito said the white 2004 Dodge pickup truck Tinnemeyer was believed to be driving also was found in Riverside. Metro Police had believed that Tinnemeyer may be able to help them find the boy.

“Clarence Tinnemeyer has been taken into custody. He has been interviewed. Information is still forthcoming in this investigation," Cannito said during a news conference Saturday afternoon. "We are following up on a number of leads at this time."

With Cole back at home, the focus of the case became finding the men who took Cole on Wednesday morning.

"The investigation regarding this child is concluded," Cannito said. "The remainder of the investigation shifts. The focus now goes on to the drug dealing, potential extortion issues, as well as other issues that are involved with this investigation at this time."

The boy's discovery came hours after police announced they were looking for two "persons of interest" in the boy's kidnapping.

Police revealed Saturday they are looking for Jesus Gastelum. He is believed to be in Las Vegas or Southern California.

Gastelum is described as Hispanic, 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair.

Police also have someone else in custody -- in addition to the boy's grandfather -- but they didn't identify that person.

The Nevada Center for Missing Loved Ones, Nevada Child Seekers and the National Guard had partnered with Metro Police in the search for Cole. Cannito said search warrants had been issued "in several different jurisdictions throughout the country."

“Those searches have revealed some significant evidence," he said Saturday afternoon. "That evidence is being collected and analyzed to determine where else we are going to take this investigation.“

An Amber Alert that had been in effect since Wednesday was canceled Saturday morning. Police said the number of tips to the Amber Alert hot line had slowed.

"The effectiveness of the Amber Alert has run its course," Cannito said.

Cole was taken at gunpoint at about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday from his home on Cherry Grove Avenue, near Hollywood and Lake Mead boulevards.

Police have said two or three Hispanic men knocked on the front door of Cole's home, and when his mother answered the door, the men forced their way inside. They ransacked the house, took Cole and left.

Police said they believe the men were Mexican drug dealers and that the child's kidnapping was a "message" to Tinnemeyer.

One man was described as being about 5-foot-7, weighing 150 pounds with long, black, slicked-back hair. A second suspect is described as about 5-foot-7 and weighing 170 pounds.

Tinnemeyer may have stolen millions of dollars from Mexican nationals. Officer Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas police spokesman, declined to say what role Tinnemeyer played in the drug operation or whether the kidnappers had been seeking a ransom.

Police believe methamphetamine was involved, Johnson said.

Police said Tinnemeyer owns a sightseeing motorhome service and left the Las Vegas area on a tour on May 21. He contacted a family member on Aug. 22 to say he was in Tennessee, but hadn't been heard from since. The family filed a missing persons report on Tennemeyer on Sept. 11, Cannito said.

Court records show Tinnemeyer and his wife filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2001, claiming $226,500 in assets and $329,000 in liabilities. The couple listed more than $15,000 in credit card debt.

Anyone with information is urged to call Metro Police at 828-3111 or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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