Police ID suspect in abduction of Fresno, Calif., girl who was later found safe

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Police ID suspect in kidnapping of Calif. girl

FRESNO, Calif. — An 8-year-old girl who was abducted while playing outside a Fresno home escaped from her captor Tuesday morning after a driver recognized the suspect’s vehicle and cut it off, police said.

Elisa Cardenas was found in Fresno about 11 hours after she disappeared around 8:30 p.m. Monday, triggering a statewide Amber Alert. The suspect — identified as Gregorio Gonzalez, 24, of Fresno — was later arrested.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the driver was following a truck that matched the description of the abductor’s vehicle. The driver recognized the truck from media reports that showed surveillance video of the vehicle.

When the driver saw Elisa’s head in the window, he cut the truck off and Elisa bolted, Dyer said.

She was taken to Community Regional Medical Center and was in good condition, although Dyer described her as “frightened, traumatized.”

“I’ve got to tell you, it was the highlight of my career seeing Elisa and her mom unite in that hospital room,” Dyer said. “Because we beat the odds today because in many cases, we don’t find the child alive.”

The truck was later spotted by authorities, who had received a tip about its whereabouts, and Gonzalez was arrested in the parking lot of an apartment complex, police said.

Authorities said Elisa was playing with six other girls when the suspect — a stranger — approached them and managed to lure her into his pickup. Two adults who saw what was happening shouted for the girls to run away. But the man grabbed Elisa and drove away, as witnesses chased the vehicle, police said.

Fresno police said Gonzalez fits the description of a man who had exposed himself to two girls earlier in the day.

More than 130 officers were called in to help with the search and went door-to-door over a 3-mile area.

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