(CNN) -- A Florida father cashed out his retirement and took his then 10-year-old son on a four-month cross-country trek that ended with his arrest -- and the boy's safe recovery -- 1,300 miles away in a northern Michigan trailer park, a federal official said.
Shannon Little said early Friday evening that she was driving in Michigan with her son Everett, now 11, by her side.
"I'm relieved, I'm happy. It's a miracle," she said. "There were definitely days that I thought I'd never see him again."
The boy's father, Neil Little, is charged with interference with custody, according to Gary Scevola, a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service. Investigators camped out at a restaurant nabbed him around 7 p.m. Thursday, hours after finding his mobile home in Wolverine, about 95 miles south of the Canadian border.
The family's saga began in October, when Neil Little had a scheduled visit with his son Everett in western Florida and never brought the boy back. Days later, authorities in Lee County issued a felony warrant for the father.
In late December, Scevola said that the sheriff's office turned the lead in the case over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and various law enforcement agencies.
Neil Little had $300,000 in cash on him, derived from his retirement accounts, according to Scevola. He bought his mobile home in Alabama and many other items with cash, making it more difficult for investigators to track him.
Working various leads, investigators were able to determine that his mobile home was at a Wolverine campground. Neil Little allegedly had bought property in the area as well, shuttling between that and his mobile home, Scevola said.
Marshals from the agency's western Michigan office canvassed relevant spots in the area, with some positioned near the mobile home and others sitting down in a number of restaurants that the father and son were known to frequent, according to Scevola.
Neil Little came into one of them, which the senior inspector described as a "Mom-and-Pop restaurant," and was arrested without incident. The father could now be extradited to Florida, while Scevola said the child is in "good condition, healthy, (with) no problems."
"It was a tough case, and I'm glad to have a happy ending," Scevola said.
Shannon Little echoed that sentiment Friday, saying she was "in shock" when she heard her son and ex-husband had been found.
"Some days you're hopeful, some days you're very fearful," she said of the four-month ordeal. "Even though I waited for the call all this time, I was so excited. You don't know what to do with yourself."
The Florida mother said she and her son planned to fly back to Florida on Saturday. She thanked all those involved in the investigation and said she hoped her plight showed the value of staying optimistic against the odds.
"You just can't ever give up hope," she said. "It can't ever be an option."