GALLATIN, Tenn. — UPDATE (11/18/21): The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced on Thursday that Noah Clare and a 16-year-old girl have been found safe just outside of San Clemente, California -- and the Orange County Sheriff said it's thanks to a mother who acted on her intuition.
The TBI said Jacob Clare, Noah's father and the 16-year-old girl's uncle, has been taken into custody for especially aggravated kidnapping after a weeks-long search for the three. He is currently being held in the Orange County Jail and will be extradited to Tennessee to face charges, which could take weeks as authorities work to determine if he will face other charges in California.
During a media briefing Thursday evening, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Noah's and the 16-year-old girl's parents were on the way to California to be reunited with their children.
Barnes said a mother from the Dana Point area, Julia Bonin, made that all possible by following her intuition and alerting authorities after spotting the three at Doheny State Beach Thursday morning.
Bonin said she knew about the AMBER Alert after seeing pictures of the three shared on social media the day before holding hands and wearing backpacks in the San Clemente area to the southeast of Dana Point. At first, she had doubts it was them -- thinking they would have left the area.
"You just have to trust your instinct and gut when you see these things," Bonin said. "I thought when I first saw them, there's no way they are still here."
Bonin said she noticed them while driving her son to school, but her instincts kept pulling on her to go back to double check and report it. She acted on those feelings.
"I just had to make sure I followed them to make sure I know whether or not it was them. 15 minutes later, they had them in custody," she said.
Bonin said she snapped a photo of them from a distance and kept comparing it to the photos she saw earlier on social media, saying the three looked similar except no one was wearing a backpack.
She said she didn't notice anything usual about them at the time -- saying the young boy looked happy and was skipping along.
Bonin said she called authorities to report seeing what she believed was the three at the beach park and was about to leave after she hung up. She said an urge kept her from leaving, though, until she could see authorities arrive to confirm her suspicions.
"This feeling didn't go away. I tried to leave a couple of times after reporting it, but the pit in my stomach was there," she said.
Bonin kept her distance until authorities arrived a few minutes later, which ended in "the best way possible" according to the sheriff. The father was taken into custody peacefully, and the children were safe.
"I just know that that mom just can't wait to have her baby back," Bonin said. "I couldn't stop shaking and tearing up. I just wanted to go hug him."
On November 16, the TBI issued an AMBER Alert for Noah -- who's from Gallatin, Tennessee. The boy had been missing since November 6.
Authorities said his father left his home in Ohio County, Kentucky sometime around the morning of November 6 with Noah and the16-year-old girl. The father was supposed to drop Noah off with his mother in Gallatin, but police said he never showed up and charged with him custodial interference.
Days later, the Sevierville Police Department asked people to be on the lookout for the three -- saying they appeared to have been traveling to the East Tennessee/Gatlinburg area.
The boy's grandmother, Bonnie Krpata, said her son Jacob had bought a trailer in Kentucky and had been allowed to have Noah stay with him every other weekend, saying he was the "best dad to Noah" up until this point -- begging for him to do the right thing.
“I would say ‘I love you,’” Krpata said. "I love all my kids no matter what, but this isn’t right. I just need him to bring them home. It is tearing everybody apart. I love my son. This is not the way. I love my grandbabies more.”
Before moving into the trailer, Krpata said Jake was staying with the 16-year-old girl's family.
Krpata said she believed Jacob was distraught about not having more time with his son, saying she believes he had planned to run away with Noah for some time.
Jacob remains in custody in California as of November 19, and faces kidnapping charges in connection with the AMBER Alert.
On November 16, the search had been extended to Arizona at the time the Tennessee AMBER Alert was sent. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the father's vehicle was spotted November 7 on camera traveling on Highway 95 in Parker, Arizona. The TBI later said the car was found in San Clemente, California.
Officials also said that it appeared the car had been filled with clothing, camping gear and several other items.
According to a release from TBI, Jacob bought the car from a person on Facebook Marketplace on October 30. A tow company in San Clemente, California impounded the car on Nov. 13, and three days later law enforcement processed evidence from the car that they said might help their investigation.
Based on surveillance photos the TBI shared of Noah, the 16-year-old girl and Jacob, the three had been in San Clemente on November 11. According to officials, the photos showed who they believed to be Jacob and the girl hauling camping equipment while holding hands with Noah.
On November 18 around 12:30 p.m., the TBI announced Noah and the 16-year-old girl had been found "safe and sound," sharing a picture of them.