What Robert Puffinburger called "the most scary time in my life" ended Saturday night with the recovery of his kidnapped son.
Since 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger was snatched from his northeast Las Vegas home Wednesday morning by men impersonating police officers, the grinning, bespectacled boy has been the subject of a nationwide search.
His name was flashed in Amber Alerts across the Southwest.
His photo was circulated in thousands of fliers.
Late Saturday night, an alert bus driver spotted Cole wandering in the area of 17th Street and Oakey Boulevard.
Jacob Snow, a general manager with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, did not identify the middle-aged man behind the wheel of bus 1722.
The man thought it was odd to see a boy alone in that area at night and stopped the bus.
Cole got on, identified himself and told the driver that he had been dropped off just a few minutes before the bus came along.
The boy was uninjured, Snow said Sunday. The boy was lucid. He even knew what day it was.
"He appeared to be in very good condition," Snow said. "He wasn't crying or emotionally distraught."
The same can't be said for Cole's father, who lacked the words to describe the trauma of having his son abducted at gunpoint.
According to sources and authorities, the assailants are suspected of being linked to a Mexican drug cartel trying to recover millions of dollars from Cole's maternal grandfather.
"You never want to have anything like that happen to anybody," Puffinburger said Sunday afternoon. "And when it happens to your family, God, it's unexplainable."
Police described Cole as in "extremely good condition."
Authorities said they are working to piece together Cole's whereabouts during the time he was missing.
"We're speaking with the boy today," Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman David Staretz told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I know he's being interviewed by law enforcement, and we'll probably get a better idea of where he's been."
Cole was taken to University Medical Center to make sure he was in good health, Las Vegas police said.
Two detectives who were passing out fliers about Cole on Saturday night responded to a call about a possible sighting of the boy at about 10:23 p.m., Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Vincent Cannito said. The boy was found about nine miles southwest of his home in the area of Lake Mead and Hollywood boulevards. They confirmed the boy was Cole.
"It's just a blessing that this child has been found," Cannito said during a 12:30 a.m. Sunday news conference outside the department's Investigative Services Division at Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
Cannito did not take questions during the announcement of Cole's recovery. Police spokesman Jay Rivera said no additional information about the case would be released Sunday afternoon.
Puffinburger also declined to discuss details of the police investigation. He was reunited with his son Sunday and said he was ecstatic and relieved to have Cole back.
"I couldn't get the smile off my face," Puffinburger said. "It's the greatest feeling to see your son. It was like Christmas."
Since Cole's abduction, Las Vegas police had about 100 detectives working 12-hour shifts on the case.
"The investigation regarding this child is concluded," Cannito said. "The remainder of the investigation shifts, and our focus now goes onto the drug dealing, to potential extortion issues as well as other issues certainly that are involved in this investigation at this time."
Sources and police said a possible motive for Cole's kidnapping was to send a message to the boy's maternal grandfather, Clemens Tinnemeyer, 51, who is suspected of stealing millions of dollars from a Mexican drug cartel through drug trafficking, primarily in methamphetamine.
Sources said the amount of money stolen was between $8 million and $20 million.
Tinnemeyer, who had been in hiding, was arrested late Friday by the FBI after being named as a person of interest, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. He was arrested on a material witness warrant and is being held at the San Bernardino County Central Detention Center.
Cannito said police have interviewed Tinnemeyer, but he would not elaborate on what Cole's grandfather told them.
Police earlier Saturday had identified two other "persons of interest" in the case. One person not named by Cannito has been interviewed by police.
Authorities are still searching for the second, Jesus Gastelum, a 5-foot-9-inch man in his mid-30s weighing about 185 pounds. He is thought to be in Las Vegas or Southern California.
Cole's kidnapping exploded into a national story within 24 hours of the incident. Police said two or possibly three men entered Cole's home on Cherry Grove Avenue about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday.
The men demanded money, and the boy's mother and her fiancé told them they didn't have any, police said. The men used zip ties to restrain the two adults, gagged them and searched the house, police said.
When they didn't find money, they took Cole and fled in a vehicle, police said.
On Sunday evening, there were no visible signs of police activity at Cole's home or at the home of Tinnemeyer, near Bonanza Road and Nellis Boulevard.
The front yard of Cole's home told of the happy ending to the kidnapping saga. A hand-painted sign said: "WELCOME HOME COLE." A pile of stuffed animals and balloons were stacked high nearby.
Puffinburger said that his son was in good spirits and that his return home was reason to celebrate.
"We're going to have a big, old party," Puffinburger said. "He'll get whatever he wants."