While on vacation, Barbara Quinlan says she noticed a little Texas boy with his dad, but never with his mom, so her radar went up. She says, "During the Super Bowl party, it went on all day and into the night and he was up at 11:00 at night. And I just knew it wasn't right; something was wrong. And being that he was the only little white boy on the island, it was another bizarre situation."
The FBI says the Texas man didn't like his custody arrangement and ran off with his son, Jacob (whose nickname is Jake). Using documents that were allegedly forged, he took the 3-year-old from San Angelo through Cancun, Mexico, then to Belize, where they lived quietly until last month.
Quinlan says, "I knew if I was going to tell this story, I would need evidence. I would need proof."
So, she set out to get it with the help of her skeptical fiance Murray Kadel.
Kadel says, "She changed places because David was standing beside me and said, 'Here, take a picture of me.' So I got him in the background."
When Quinlan got back to Minnesota, she printed the photos, but wasn't sure what to do next. Then amazingly, she got a mailer about missing kids, logged onto the Web site, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and discovered the boy had been kidnapped.
"I screamed," Quinlan says, "I said, 'Murray, Murray, come here quick.' I said, 'It's Jake. It's him.'"
Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says, "I think it really demonstrates the power of technology and the power of the Web and most importantly the power of individual people to make a difference."
A difference in the life of a child, like Jacob.
His mom,Heather Clenney, says it was quite interesting how she found out her son was in Belize after traveling to 14 states and putting up posters for over eight months.
She tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm, "The deputy that I reported all this with brought me the picture. So he's been a good friend for 12 years. When he told me, I was just, 'Oh, my gosh! I don't know. I just didn't know what to say.'"
It took over a month before she got to Belize along with the FBI, but once she got there, Heather Clenney says, "I just held him and squeezed him. He just laid on my shoulders and just hugged; just held me. It was great. It was unbelievable."
And holding her son, sitting beside her at the studio, she says now Jake is doing well. "He's been playing and playing with his sisters and getting back in our touch and bonding and starting all over again."
Heather Clenney was able to thank Quinlan by phone, and give her a hug on Wednesday as The Early Show reunited the two women.
Heather Clenney says, "I'm just so glad I got to meet her. I didn't think I would have this opportunity."
Quinlan says seeing mother and child together is "the best thing ever." And to viewers she advises, "Keep your eyes and ears open and follow your instincts, your gut feeling. Go for it. If you feel something is not right, then check into it."