Dozens of police officers fanned out across northwest Georgia on Saturday to search for a convicted child molester who took an 11-year-old boy from his school in Florida and became separated from him near a gas station here.

Frederick Fretz (search), 42, was believed to be on foot and hiding in a wooded area near where the boy was found safe Friday evening, said Maj. Mike Powell of the Emerson Police Department. Powell said he had no indication that the boy was molested.

Fretz, who had been living with the boy and his father, picked up the boy at a Dunnellon, Fla., Elementary School on Tuesday, police said. Their drive north ended when their car stalled on an exit ramp off Interstate 75 north of Atlanta.

The discovery of the car Friday morning triggered the search for the two. Emerson police received a call when Fretz and the boy went to a store to buy a gallon of water and some candy, Powell said.

The boy was found less than 12 hours later, about two miles from the car, and ran toward police as Fretz fled into the woods, police said.

The boy's father said Fretz never told him he had been convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in Pennsylvania in 1991.

Authorities issued an Amber Alert on Wednesday to notify the public and other law enforcement agencies once they learned about the conviction.