A 51-year-old cafeteria worker at Balboa Middle School in Ventura was hospitalized early Friday morning after being carjacked and kidnapped outside the school and beaten, police said.
The woman, usually the first to arrive at school each day, was walking from her pickup truck to the building shortly after 6 a.m. when she was forced back into her vehicle by a white or Latino man in his mid-20s or early 30s, said Lt. Carl Handy of the Ventura Police Department.
A second employee was pulling into the school and saw the woman screaming for help from inside the truck as the carjacker drove away with her, Handy said.
That witness contacted police, and officers searched in vain for the pickup for about an hour until receiving a call about a beaten woman found in a truck outside the Missionary Church of Ventura on High Point Drive near the school.
Officers had not found the kidnapper Friday evening, despite searches by land and by air. He was described as having a mustache and wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
The victim, whose name was not being released, was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Police had yet to determine whether she knew the attacker and were hoping to learn more when her condition improved, Handy said.
"She does not have life-threatening injuries, but she was battered very severely," he said.
School officials sent a letter home with each of the 1,200 students, letting parents know that no children were harmed or present during the incident, that children should feel safe at the school, which has a full-time resource officer during school hours, and that counselors were available for parents or students with any concerns.
Several school employees and Supt. Joseph Spirito visited the cafeteria worker at Ventura County Medical Center, said Balboa Assistant Principal Marilyn Renger.