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Details emerge surrounding stolen car with kids inside

In the minute it took Jesse Blair to get out of his car and walk 10 feet to his cousin's door, his life almost changed forever.

That was all the time someone needed to spot Blair's car running with the engine on, jump inside and drive away, seemingly unaware that two small children were in the back seat.

The children are home now and none the worse, the suspect accused of stealing the car is in custody facing a raft of charges, and Blair is still trying to find the words to thank the police officers who made sure this incident did not become a tragedy.

"Our kids are healthy and safe," Blair said. "Lancaster PD was phenomenal."

Blair, an Akron resident, had stopped at his cousin's house on Ransom Road to return an air mattress following a family camping trip. He parked the car far up the driveway, about 50 feet from the road.

With temperatures reaching about 80 degrees, he said, he left the car running with its air conditioning on while he stepped inside.

Blair did not witness what happened next, but a neighbor did. A man, later identified as Kenneth J. Kamholz, suddenly appeared, jumped into the car and sped away.

Lancaster police were quickly in pursuit and were able to track the vehicle to the Walden Avenue and Traceway area through the use of cellphone-tracking technology. Blair had left his phone in the car.

"It gives you a general location of where the cellphone is at," police Capt. Timothy R. Murphy said. "We just sent as many cars that were available over there. We also sent out reverse 911 calls to residents in the area."

Not long after police began their search for the stolen car, dispatchers received a report of another vehicle theft being attempted on Walden Avenue. Murphy said Kamholz was at that time riding a bicycle stolen from a garage and flagged down the second vehicle as if he needed help. He also was in possession of a hammer and used it in an unsuccessful carjacking attempt, according to police.

After the attempted theft, Kamholz fled on the bike, and the vehicle's driver followed him along Walden Avenue, police said.

Kamholz matched the description from the first incident and was soon detained by officers. He resisted arrest and had to be subdued with a Taser, Murphy said.

The suspect told police he left Blair's vehicle and children in a residential neighborhood at Seneca Place and Juniper Boulevard, where they were found.

At one point, Kamholz attempted to assure the 4-year-old girl that nothing bad was happening, said the child's mother, Lindsey Blair.

"She said [Kamholz] told her he was taking them back to Daddy," Lindsey Blair said.

Blair said she still can't believe the turn of events, calling it a "one in a million chance."

The 8-month-old is too young to recognize what happened, her mother said, and the 4-year-old has remained upbeat.

"She's been fine ever since we got her back," Lindsey Blair said.

Murphy said he wanted to make it clear that Jesse Blair did nothing wrong and is not facing any charges.

Kamholz was not that fortunate. He has been charged with 15 counts, including unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest and possession of a weapon.

Detectives have not determined a motive behind the crimes, and the suspect has remained mostly silent since his arrest, Murphy said.

Kamholz was arraigned in Lancaster Town Court and remains held on $50,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday.

email: jbolitho@buffnews.com