EAGAN, Minn. -- A Bloomington couple found themselves in precisely the right place, at exactly the right time, to save a three-year-old boy wandering on an Eagan highway early Tuesday morning.
"It was very scary, very scary," Leslie Petroff told KARE.
Petroff and her husband Phil were returning from a holiday trip in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, when they stopped to gas up their SUV at a convenience store on Dodd Road in Eagan. As they headed northwest on Highway 55 and approached the intersection with Lone Oak Road they encountered an unbelievable sight, especially for 2:45 a.m.
"Phil said to me, 'Oh my God! There's a little boy crossing the road!.' And I said, 'I know! Stop!" Petroff recalled.
She asked Phil to call 9-1-1 while she scampered onto the road to fetch the three-year-old boy who appeared to be in a dream-like state.
"I really strongly believe he was sleepwalking," Petroff remarked, "When I ran down the highway calling him, 'Honey, come one, let's get out of the road' he just stood there and looked at me."
The toddler did not cry, make a fuss, or answer any questions. He simply fell fast asleep in Petroff's arms as she gathered him in.
"When I was two feet away I reached my arms out and that's he reached his hands out to me. I just picked him up and took him back to the car. As soon as I put him in my lap he was out, just asleep."
When police and paramedics arrived Leslie Petroff again tried to ask the boy his name.
"All he did was shake his head. I don't know if it was a language barrier or he was sleeping with his eyes open. I really don't think he was aware of where he was or what was happening."
Eagan police officers immediately went door to door seeking a matching family, but failed to find anyone who knew the three-year-old lad. But at 5:30 a.m. a woman called 9-1-1 from a townhome at least a half mile away, to say her little boy was missing.
"The investigation revealed that the child walked down two flights of stairs from where he was sleeping," Officer Danielle Anselment of the Eagan Police Dept. told KARE.
"He walked out into the garage and pushed the button for the garage door opener, which was located on a wall within his reaching distance. Then he let himself out of the garage."
The boy's mother told police she was just visiting the family that lives in that Eagan townhome, so even if the tot wasn't actually sleepwalking he'd still be familiar with the territory. There's a small lake much closer to the neighborhood than the busy intersection he somehow made his way to in the middle of the night.
Police say Dakota County social services workers will have custody of the boy for at least 72 hours, while his family situation is fully evaluated. But, as of Tuesday, no criminal charges were expected.
People seen entering the townhome Tuesday evening declined to comment on the situation. But the woman who rescued him from the highway was still haunted hours later by thoughts of what could've happened to the boy had she and her husband not been there at that very moment.
"That area is full of big trucks, and a semi would never be able to stop in time to keep from hitting him," Leslie Petroff said.
"Or some pedofile could've found him first and taken him. I'm just glad he's safe. I'm glad it wasn't an unhappy ending."
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