DNA on hat leads to arrest in car theft involving child


VERO BEACH — Forensic detectives collected sweat from inside a hat left at the scene of a September car theft, leading police to file charges against the suspect. The DNA positively matched Tevin Devonte Wallace, who police said stole the vehicle with a 10-month-old baby inside.

“We sent the hat to the (Indian River) crime lab and the lab was able to retrieve sweat from the hat,” said Kelsea Callahan, spokesperson for the Vero Beach Police Department. “Due to Wallace being a felon, his DNA was already in the labs system and that is how he was identified.”

The baby was unharmed and was in the back seat when officers found the vehicle, police said.

Wallace, 29, of Vero Beach, was charged with grand theft auto while already being held at the Indian River County Jail on unrelated charges. Wallace was held Monday on a $25,000 bond.

Police said Wallace refused to speak with detectives regarding the investigation.

Search for stolen car with baby inside

The incident unfolded the afternoon of Sept. 15 at the parking lot of Nitou’s Beauty Supply in the 1200 block of 16th Street, Vero Beach. Officers responded to reports of a possible kidnapping with a child in the vehicle.

The boy’s father told police that he parked his vehicle, left the engine running and went inside the store to make a purchase, officials said. Moments later, the man walked back outside, saw the car was missing and dialed 911.

Several agencies – including the Vero Beach Police Department, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and Sebastian Police Department – used K9’s to try and track the driver. A sheriff’s helicopter scanned the grounds for the car.

Police learned the vehicle was last seen headed southbound on 43rd Avenue near 41st Street. A sheriff’s deputy saw a man walking on 43rd Avenue at 15th Street. The man hopped the fence leading to Shadowbrook Apartments, officers said.

Deputies also saw the stolen car nearby. Police and deputies went to the car and saw the boy inside.

The child was reunited with his father a short time later, officials said.


Police detectives obtained surveillance footage near Shadowbrook Apartments that showed the driver and the car. Officers obtained a description of the suspect, who was wearing a white tank top, blue jeans and a black and brown hat.

Detectives found the same hat near where the man jumped the fence, police said.

Officers took the hat to the Indian River Crime Lab in Fort Pierce. The DNA from the hat matched Wallace, officers said.

Police filed the grand theft auto charge against Wallace on Sunday. Wallace has an arraignment at 8:45 a.m. June 20, court records show.

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