Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes called Julia Bonin a "superhero" after she spoke to reporters on Thursday about how she was walking her son to school when she spotted who she believed were Amber Clare, 16, and Noah Clare, 3, walking with wanted man Jacob Clare at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.
"As nervous as I am to be up here, I just want to say to everybody that you just have to trust your instinct and your gut when you see these things because I almost didn't act upon it," Bonin said.
The minors had been missing since Nov. 6 and they were last seen in Tennessee, but authorities released photos Wednesday of the children in San Clemente, California, with Jacob Clare, 35, who was wearing a large backpack alongside his niece, Amber Clare, and his son, Noah Clare.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes on Thursday called Julia Bonin a "superhero" after her actions led to finding missing children Amber Clare, 16, and Noah Clare, 3, safe and sound. (Orange County Sheriff's Department)
San Clemente is located about 7 miles down the coast from Dana Point.
Bonin told reporters that she kept her distance and snapped a photo of the trio, which she said resembled photos investigators had earlier released in search of the missing children, before calling 911.
Bonin said that she tried to leave a couple of times, even after reporting the possible sighting to authorities, but she trusted a feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"There’s been times before when you think you see something and don’t say anything and kind of wonder," Bonin said. "But this feeling just didn’t go away. It was very much instinctual and very much a gut feeling that it just stayed with me."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced on Nov. 18 that Noah Clare of Tennessee and Amber Clare of Kentucky were found safe. Noah's father, Jacob Clare, was taken into custody.
The sheriff’s department later posted video of Noah Clare being reunited with his mother, Amanda Leigh Ennis, and other family members.
Jacob Clare, of Kentucky, was charged with aggravated kidnapping and was in custody, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Fox News' Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.