(AUSTIN, Texas) — Two missing Georgia boys have been found safe in Texas and their father has been taken into police custody.
Moments after pleading for her boys’ return on television, the boys’ mother Theresa Nash received a phone call from a citizen in Texas who said he was with her sons.
“I was in complete disbelief,” Nash told ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV as she was boarding a plane to pick up her sons. “He immediately put the phone to Ben and Henry and I talked to them. They were very, very shaken up.”
Police in Austin, Texas, were notified when someone recognized the boys and their father at a motel after seeing them on TV.
“They were playing with a Nerf ball, went back inside, they were with Daddy and they came back out and somebody said, ‘Put your hands up,’ and everybody put their hands up,” Nash said.
The boys’ father Daniel Cleary was arrested without incident, police said.
“We don’t know why he chose Austin,” Austin Police Cpl. Wuthipong Tantaksinanuki told WSB-TV. “I know that after he was taken into custody, we did recover a handgun — a pistol — and a large sum of money.”
Daniel Cleary, who will be extradited to Georgia, faces a charge of interstate interference with custody, a felony, and could face other charges, McGee said.
Benjamin and Henry Cleary had been missing since Wednesday from the greater Atlanta area.
Benjamin, 9, and Henry, 7, had plans to leave with their father, Daniel Cleary, on an overnight trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., on Dec. 22. When they failed to return as scheduled on Dec. 26, their mother, Theresa Nash, who does not live with the boys’ father, went to his house to check on them, only to find the phone disconnected and the house empty.
An Amber Alert was issued for the boys.
“There is a court order for them to contact me every day,” Nash told ABCNews.com on Friday. “When I hadn’t heard from them, and their father’s phone was turned off, I went to their father’s house to see if they were there. The house was cleared out as if they had moved.”
Nash called Cleary “unstable,” and said he had only been using cash since the boys went missing. Police said they had not found any charges on his credit card.
The three were spotted Friday at a Walmart in Jackson, Tenn., McGee said.
The boys were found on Henry’s eighth birthday and were expected to be reunited with their mother on Sunday.
“They’ve been begging for an Xbox 360 for Christmas, and Santa brought them one so they need to come home because it’s waiting,” Nash said on Friday.
A prayer vigil that was scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in Georgia’s Suwanee Town Center Park will be still be held for prayers of thanks.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Matt McFarland, CNN
Samira Said, CNN
Morgan Loew, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN