July 24, 2021

Local State Trooper involved in takedown of couple that kidnapped baby

(Franklin, GA) — A local Georgia State Trooper was one of the officers involved in the apprehension of a couple accused of kidnapping a baby over the weekend in Chamblee, GA.

Authorities believe the couple who kidnapped a 1-year-old baby boy Saturday afternoon intended to raise the baby as their own.

Mateo Alejandro Montufar-Barrera was kidnapped at the Balfour Chamblee Apartments on Clairview Drive at around 12:30 PM.

The boy’s mother, Leslie Barrera, said she was walking Mateo in his stroller near their apartment when a man got out of an Acura SUV and pointed a gun at her.

Chamblee police said Leslie Barrera was able to grab the gun from the man and tried to shoot him, but the gun didn’t go off.

“She fought them tooth and nail. She took his gun and tried to shoot him with it. She tore his shorts and kept his shoe. She showed us a mother’s love in action and we are so proud of her,” Chamblee Assistant Police Chief Mike Beller said.

While Barrera fought the man, investigators say the man’s wife, who was disguised as a male, jumped out and grabbed the baby from the stroller. The couple then fled the scene.

They were tracked down five hours later in Carroll County, where Maynor Dario Valera Zuniga and Kristin Nicole Valera Zuniga were arrested.

Baby Mateo, who was dressed as a girl, was rescued and returned to his mother about 5-6 hours after being abducted.

Georgia State Trooper Johnathon Nelms (Photo: Chamblee PD Press Conference)

During a news conference Monday, police described what led up to the kidnapping and the rescue.

Chamblee Police Chief Kerry Thomas touted the collaboration among his department, DeKalb County, Carroll County, the GBI, the FBI, the Georgia State Patrol and others as the reason they were able to rescue Mateo unharmed.

Trooper First Class Johnathon Nelms, a Heard County resident, along with Chamblee Assistant Chief Beller were the first two officers on the scene at the location where the couple was found and executed the felony traffic stop and takedown of the two suspects without any harm coming to the baby.

Nelms was only on duty for about five minutes Saturday when he got the call from GSP Sgt. Michael Allen that the couple were suspected to be at an address in southern Carroll County.

The Heard County Trooper says that Officer Rick Barber of the Chamblee PD and Sgt. Allen are both outstanding and very professional law enforcement officers that were crucial in finding little Mateo.

In a phone interview with the Heard Citizen, Trooper Nelms stated that finding a missing child in a situation like this is very unusual and one of the best feelings an officer of the law can experience.

“As a law enforcement officer, there is nothing in this world that is more rewarding than finding a missing child and no one is more hated than anybody that will try to harm an innocent child that can’t defend themselves,” said Nelms.

Nelms graduated from Trooper School in 2012 and has served as a Georgia State Trooper since 2013.


  1. FIRST of all…MAD props to the Mama BEAR…..and BEAR she was. She fought tooth and nail to protect her child. What else can I say? Bless you Mama. I’d a done the same. People LEAVE these babies ALONE and go get some mental heath. It don’t make no damn sense the shit people be doing. God come quickly. And I think he is right on our doorstep. Well. Please come on in.You are Welcome here.

  2. Proud of them both. BACK THE BLUE.

  3. They need a good ‘ol country ass whoopin’.

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