Mother arrested after reporting 3-year-old son as missing

SAN DIEGO -- A toddler reported missing from his family's home in Linda Vista Tuesday was found unharmed with a babysitter following an intensive hours-long search of the neighborhood just north of Mission Valley and police later arrested the boy's mother for allegedly falsely reporting her son was missing.

The exhaustive efforts to find 3-year-old Kevin Serrano began in the late morning and continued until shortly before 3 p.m., when a person who apparently had been watching the boy in the 7500 block of Mesa College Drive reported that he was "safe and happy," San Diego police Lt. Brent Williams said.

The tot's mother, identified by police as Maria Flores, made an emergency call about 10:15 a.m., reporting that her son had disappeared from their residence, according to police.

Dozens of officers soon were scouring roadsides, yards and canyons around the Serrano family's apartment in the 2500 block of Ulric Street on foot, aboard patrol motorcycles and in a law enforcement helicopter. Search teams with scenting dogs also took part.

"Upon further investigation it was learned Maria Flores had provided police with false information about her son's whereabouts," according to police Lt. Eric Hays, who said Flores was arrested and booked on suspicion of filing a false police report.

The brown-haired, roughly 35-pound boy, who was said to be wearing blue "Cookie Monster" pajamas at the time of his purported disappearance, had no history of wandering away from home, police Lt. Christian Sharp said.

The babysitter who apparently had been with the boy during the entire missing-child scare told police Flores had dropped the child off Tuesday morning to be watched, according to Williams.

It was unclear why the woman allegedly falsely reported her son missing.

Kevin was placed in protective custody, police said.