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It was an emotional night for three South Florida brothers who were reunited with their father, nine days after their mother and her boyfriend took them away on a cross-country trip that, police said, began with an abduction.
Twelve-year-old Erin Peña joined younger brothers Derrick and Steven as they jumped into their father's arms shortly after arriving to Miami International Airport, Sunday. The children were escorted by Miami-Dade County Schools Police officers.
"I really can't say how I felt, it was just incredible," said the boys' father, also named Steven Peña. "Just seeing them, it was really awesome."
A nationwide search for Erin and his brothers ensued after their biological mother, Carrie Weingarth, and her boyfriend, Christian Coello, fled with the boys.
Weingarth allegedly snatched Erin from Gulfstream Elementary School in Cutler Bay Feb. 14 and headed north. They were first spotted Monday in Lake City, Fla. and then in Walker, La. the next day. They eventually ended in Barstow, Calif., where the kids were taken into safety and Weingarth and Coello were arrested, Thursday.
Miami-Dade Schools Police Department chief Ian Moffett said he empathized with Steven Peña's ordeal. "I'm a father, the detectives, they're all fathers; we know the feeling of having kids and what happens when you have kids and not knowing where they're at," he said, "so at the end of the day, this is a great feeling to see this come through for this father."
The boys' father said he doesn't plan on wasting a single moment that he gets to be in his children's company. "I won't sleep tonight," he said.
The children did not come back empty-handed. They brought back a mug that they made especially for him.
Steven Peña said he plans on enrolling all three sons in a school located nearby him.
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