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3-year-old boy reported missing found safe with babysitter

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.

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 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 aircraft. Search teams with scenting dogs also took part.

"(We) have the helicopter and about 30-plus officers, and more officers arriving in to continue the search," Lt. Christian Sharp told reporters at midday.

The brown-haired, roughly 35-pound boy, who was wearing blue "Cookie Monster" pajamas at the time of his disappearance, had no history of wandering away from home, Sharp said. "So this is highly unusual, and that's why we're taking this extremely seriously," he said.

The babysitter who apparently had been with the boy during the entire missing-child scare told police his mother had dropped him off Tuesday morning to be watched, according to Williams. It remained a mystery how the mother might have come to believe the toddler had gone missing.

"So we're still trying to clarify those stories," Williams said late Tuesday afternoon.

It was not immediately clear if the boy would be returned to his family right away or would remain in protective custody while authorities sorted out what had led to the apparent false alarm.