OAKLAND — Three felony charges have been filed against a man accused of stealing a car that a 2-year-old boy was sitting in on Tuesday in East Oakland, according to authorities and court records.
The boy was later found in San Leandro, where he had been left in the middle of the street. The suspect was arrested that night in Tiburon, near where the stolen vehicle was recovered.
The suspect, Viorel Morari, 34, who has addresses in Concord and Oakland, was charged Thursday with child abuse, vehicle theft and receiving stolen property.
He pleaded not guilty Friday and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Jan. 31, according to jail records. He was in custody Friday afternoon at Santa Rita Jail, but a bail amount was not listed.
The car theft happened about 3 p.m. Tuesday in the 900 block of 85th Avenue.
The boy was in a car seat, in the backseat of his mother’s 2024 Honda Civic. His mother was standing outside the vehicle checking on another vehicle she owns when Morari allegedly got inside the Honda and drove away, authorities said. The mother’s iPhone was also inside the vehicle.
Morari later told police he did not know the child was in the car when he drove away, authorities said.
But he soon realized the boy was in the vehicle and drove to San Leandro, where he left the child in the middle of the roadway of a street in a commercial industrial area, court records say. The boy was apparently unharmed and was returned to his mother after being evaluated at the scene by paramedics.
Moraru then drove away in the Honda — still carrying the iPhone, which authorities could track. Several hours later, they found the vehicle in an unincorporated part of Marin County.
Surveillance video showed a man, who turned out to be Morari, and a woman walking away from the vehicle, one of them still holding the stolen phone. Marin County sheriff’s deputies arrested them both about 10:30 p.m. in Tiburon near Greenwood Cove Drive and Tiburon Boulevard.
Police said Morari had picked up the woman sometime after dropping off the child. She has not been charged.