"We will be eternally grateful every minute of our lives," mom Theresa Nash says
Daniel Cleary failed to return his sons as planned and hadn't been heard from
An Amber Alert went out Thursday; the boys were found Saturday evening
A person alerted police after recognizing the missing boys on CNN, police say
A woman without hope when the weekend started, Theresa Nash snuggled with her two sons Ben and Henry in Atlanta on Sunday, overwhelmed at how quickly things had changed.
Both boys hugged their favorite stuffed animals: Henry clutched a red hippo and Ben, a teddy bear in a blue T-shirt.
“It is by the grace of God and all the people in this country and all the angels in heaven and all the people praying …” Nash told CNN’s Don Lemon, launching into a list of folks who helped bring the 10-day ordeal to an end.
The two boys were found Saturday evening in Austin, Texas – about 950 miles west of their hometown of Roswell, an Atlanta suburb – after a man who had been watching CNN’s coverage of the case called police.
Their father Daniel Cleary, is in police custody. He will be charged with interstate interference with custody, a felony, and extradited back to Georgia, according to Roswell Police Lt. James McGee.
Nash said she didn’t know why her estranged husband did not bring the boys home as planned Wednesday from a trip to Tennessee that began December 19. She told CNN affiliate WSB-TV that she had not heard from him since December 22.
Henry – at 8 years old, the younger, but more talkative of the two bothers – said he had no idea people were worried about them.
Cleary had told them their mother was in the hospital, Nash said.
Police first issued an Amber Alert for the suspect and his two sons on Thursday, eight days after they were last seen in Georgia.
“Suspect & children are believed to be traveling in a 2002 silver Jeep Grand Cherokee … traveling on west side of Nashville, TN, on Interstate 40,” the alert stated.
The next day, authorities released pictures of the father and his two boys taken from surveillance cameras December 23 and December 24 at a Walmart in Jackson, Tennessee.
Still, they didn’t know exactly where they were.
That is until Saturday evening when a person at the Crossland Austin West hotel in Texas, who had been watching CNN, recognized the Cleary brothers and called 911, said Austin police Lt. Wuthipong Tantaksinanukij.
Around the time her estranged husband was being taken into custody, Nash got a call from a man who said, “I’m sitting here with your two sons.”
Asked if it was the best thing she had ever heard, “Oh my goodness,” she said.
Unaware of how worried everyone was, Henry, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, bragged about how he’d been kicking 9-year-old Ben’s butt on iPad games.
There will be more games to play. Nash got an Xbox for the boys for Christmas. There was also a remote-controlled helicopter under the tree.
Following a quick trip to Texas to pick up the boys, Nash was back home Sunday, marveling in how quickly hopelessness had turned to thanksgiving.
“We will be eternally grateful every minute of our lives for the rest of our life,” she said. “(I’m) more grateful than I ever could have thought possible.”
CNN’s Greg Botelho, Jason Morrell and Chandler Friedman contributed to this report.