Man who drove off in car with 3-year-old inside gets 8 years in prison

By Ed Runyan


Ross Francis, 43, is going to prison for eight years for abducting a 3-year-old boy last October while stealing a running car from a Niles driveway.

In court Monday, the family of the boy, Michael Babuka III, said they aren’t impressed with Francis’ explanations for why the abduction took place.

“Our family will not accept your apology. Having the car for hours, there is no way you didn’t know there was a child in the back seat,” Michael Babuka II said in a statement read by an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor.

Francis apologized in court Monday before his sentencing.

He has commented previously on having a problem with alcohol and not realizing that the boy was inside the car the night he stole it.

“Those hours of not knowing what was being done with him put us through something no family should have to go through,” the family’s statement said.

Francis had been released from the Trumbull County jail the morning of the abduction, Oct. 11, had caused the Warren Township police to be called to a mobile home in the township that evening because of a dispute and then caused Weathersfield Township police to question him regarding vandalism later that night.

Francis, who went to prison for two years on a 2000 burglary conviction, drove off in the car from a house on John Street in Niles at about 10 p.m. and was apprehended at 5:30 a.m. the next day.

The boy was still in the back seat of the car, upset but not injured.

“It makes us sick to even think of the ‘what if.’ Was he going to be OK or not? No one is to blame for this crime but yourself. You left an innocent child with nightmares because of your actions,” the statement said.

Michael Babuka II left his son in the back seat with the engine running so he could go inside the house on John Street to pick up another child. The car was traveling down the street when Babuka came out of the house.

An Amber Alert was issued about 45 minutes later.

Francis pleaded guilty in March in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to kidnapping and car theft. Presiding over his case was Judge Peter Kontos. Francis has had recent addresses in Niles and Hubbard.

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