Investigators searched a house in Bradenton, Florida, early Sunday and issued an arrest warrant for Vicente Ignacio Beltran Moreno, 22, but authorities think he fled the state.
The truck suspected in the kidnapping was found outside the suspect's house, Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells said. A ransom note was found in the course of the investigation, Wells said, adding that the man likely planned to leave the boy tied up in the woods until he got his money. Police would not release what the note demanded, only to say that it included threats.
"This was an absolute kidnapping for ransom," Wells said at a news conference. "The person wanted money in exchange for Clay Moore."
Friday morning, about a dozen children at a school bus stop in Parrish watched as Clay Moore was forced at gunpoint into a red pickup truck, police said. The kidnapper sped away from the entrance of the subdivision and down a rural road.
Clay was then bound and left alone in the dense woods about 20 miles away. For several hours, he worked to untie himself and then walked until he found a farm worker with a cell phone, police said. He then called his mother.
Wells said it appeared that Clay was selected at random in the upper-middle class neighborhood of newer, contemporary homes in Parrish, about 30 miles southeast of St. Petersburg and 12 miles northeast of Bradenton. The bus stop was at the entrance to a subdivision off a rural road.
Investigators on Saturday interviewed Beltran's family members and workers at an area farm where Beltran worked three years ago, sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said. A native of Mexico, Beltran recently had been working as a laborer with an aluminum contractor, Bristow said.
The boy went to the farm with authorities on Saturday. A sketch of the suspect was put together with help from the teen, who has earned praise from Wells for his escape and his help in the investigation.
"This man kidnapped the wrong kid," Wells said. "This is an observant kid. He's courageous."
At a press conference Sunday Wells held off on releasing certain identifying information about the suspect, but did talk about the strangeness of reviewing the ransom note.
"I was shocked," he said. "I've been in policework for 41 years. I'd never read one before."