Happy Ending -- Forest Grove driver finds toddler who had wandered away and settled in for a late-night nap
Jeff Fandrey isn't sure what inspired him to turn around to check out the strange bundle lying in the middle of the road on Aug. 26, but boy, is he glad he did.
It was just after 4 a.m., and 40-year-old Fandrey was driving home after his graveyard shift at the Roadway Express truck yard on Portland's Swan Island. Just after turning on to Buxton Street from Gales Creek Road, he weaved around a mound of landscaping dirt piled near the road.
'As I was coming around, I noticed something in the road. It just didn't seem right,' Fandrey said.
It was hard to tell what the object was in the pre-dawn dark, but it looked as if a tuft of dark-colored hair may have been poking out of the red bundle. Fandrey decided to turn around for a look.
When his headlights fell on the bundle again, a little girl's head rose from beneath what turned out to be a blanket.
'I looked down, and here was this little girl, sleeping,' Fandrey said. 'She was in the middle of the road. All you could see was the top of her head.'
Fandrey immediately jumped out of the car and ran up to the girl. The girl, two-year-old Aubrie Sandoval, sleepily reached up to him and asked for her mommy.
'She just latched on to me and didn't want me to put her down,' Fandrey said.
He used his cell phone to call the police. 'I could barely call 9-1-1,' he said. 'I was just shaking.'
Forest Grove Police Officer Roy Swiger was on the scene within minutes. But now there was another problem: where did this girl come from?
The girl said her name was 'Allie,' and said 'that's my house,' pointing to a residence just off of Ballad Lane. The man who answered the door, however, said he didn't know who the girl was.
To make matters more difficult, Sandoval, clad in just a diaper and the red blanket she was found in, refused to get into Swiger's patrol car - she still would not let go of Fandrey.
Two other police officers began canvassing the neighborhood. The resident of a nearby house got Sandoval some pajamas and made her some hot chocolate.
After about an hour, police were finally able to locate the girl's frantic mother, Tawnya Brown. According to the police report, the Portland woman was visiting her parents nearby.
Brown told police that Aubrie had a history of breaking out of her Portland residence and the house had been heavily child-proofed. Brown thought that she would be able to hear if Aubrie woke-up in the living room of her parents' house, but apparently Aubrie awoke in the middle of the night and escaped from the house.
Aubrie was released to her mother and no criminal charges were made. Brown, who did not answer numerous calls made by the News-Times, told police that she would ensure that such an incident would never happen again.
Forest Grove Police were so grateful for Fandrey's help, Chief Glenn VanBlarcom awarded Fandrey with a certificate of appreciation Monday, recognizing him for going 'above and beyond to assist law enforcement and the city.'
Issuing such certificates is a rare event, VanBlarcom said, reserved only for highly notable citizen contributions to policing. Had Fandrey not been vigilant investigating the mysterious object in the road that night, the consequences could have been terrible, VanBlarcom said Monday.
'You showed tenacity in your steadfast approach to investigate what was going on when you saw what appeared to be just a blanket laying in the roadway,' VanBlarcom said in a letter to Fandrey accompanying the certificate.
'What if you were not paying attention to your driving or just didn't care about debris in the roadway? The results of this event could have turned disastrous.'