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Orange County

Santa Ana Girl, 10, Kidnapped in Front of Aunt

Crime: Witnesses to the quick frontyard abduction say the male perpetrator stopped in a van and first asked his female passenger, 'Is this the one?'

July 14, 2001|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 10-year-old girl was abducted Friday evening from a relative's frontyard in Santa Ana by a man who pulled her into a van before speeding away, police said.

Haley Benton of Orange was kidnapped about 5:30 p.m. from the 1700 block of West Myrtle Street as her aunt and other witnesses looked on, Santa Ana police spokesman Mario Corona said.

A white Ford Windstar minivan pulled up, police said, and a white male described as 60 to 70 years old jumped out, snatched the child from the sidewalk and drove off. A black woman in her 20s was a passenger in the car.

The pair had been in the neighborhood earlier that day, claiming they had terminal illnesses and passing out fliers requesting donations, Corona said.

Family members and neighbors said that the pair were also selling candy on the block and that several people who later witnessed the kidnapping had earlier bought sweets from them.

Witnesses said it all happened in a split second, with the man allegedly pointing to Haley and asking the woman, "Is this the one?" before snatching her. The girl's aunt said she saw Haley mouth the word "help," but the aunt could not reach the van before it sped away.

Santa Ana police spent the night searching the neighborhood seeking clues. Residents in the working-class section of central Santa Ana milled outside, waiting for word from investigators.

Haley is described as 5 foot 2 and weighing 120 pounds. She's African American, with brown eyes and black hair braided into cornrows.

Police ask that anyone with information call (714) 245-8365.

Police said they would release a picture of Haley on Monday. But late Friday, the family released a photo, which shows a serious-looking girl with thick braids and sparkling eyes.

"Please bring her back because we love her," said Haley's grandmother, who did not give her name. "We just want her safe back with us."

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