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Girl Missing From Riverside Home Is Found Safe in Utah

A family friend who lived with the 5-year-old and her dad is arrested. The two were found eating lunch after a three-state road trip.

June 03, 2003|Seema Mehta and Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writers

A Riverside girl allegedly abducted from her home by a family friend early Monday was found apparently unharmed hours later and more than 500 miles away in Utah.

The 5-year-old's father, Chris Clark, 36, of Riverside, praised police for their quick work and her mother, Sabrina Stansbury, 35, of Stanton, was visibly relieved after learning her daughter was safe.

"It only took about six hours to find her, and several states away," Clark said in a brief statement. "I'd like to thank everyone involved for helping us find our daughter."

The suspect, Charles William Mix, 48, faces a minimum felony charge of child abduction, said Riverside police spokesman Felix Medina. Mix, who had been living with Clark and his daughter for two months, snatched the girl in the early-morning hours, making his way to Utah in a stolen car, police said.

Police said that Mix may have believed the girl was being mistreated by her father. Police declined to elaborate, but a friend of the girl's mother said Clark is a "wonderful father."

Law enforcement and the family credited the girl's quick recovery to the Amber alert system, a network that uses electronic road signs and TV and radio broadcasts to publicize child abductions, even though the alert was not directly responsible for the girl being found.

Mix and the girl were seen about 3:30 p.m. in Richfield, about 160 miles south of Salt Lake City.

A Richfield resident, who said she had not seen the alert, became suspicious and called police after she saw the pair eating outside a Mormon church. She said the man had long, straggly hair, and just seemed out of place with the girl.

"It just didn't look right," said Lisa Hilton, 32. "I felt really bad about being judgmental ... There was nothing wrong about it -- the little girl was playing and running around. But I just didn't believe this man was her father or even her grandfather ... As a mother, I just followed my gut."

Richfield Police Officers Trent Lloyd and Jim Brown approached Mix, chatting with him as they checked the license plates on his truck. The truck was registered to a pilot from Corona del Mar.

After the officers learned the truck had been reported stolen about 2 p.m. and may have been tied to a missing person, they arrested Mix. They said they were not aware of the Amber alert. Lloyd said the girl was calm and not frightened, and described Mix as "very cooperative."

"He has admitted to taking her," Lloyd said. "I don't know what he was going to do with her. I don't think he was going to hurt her. But I just don't know. I don't want to get into what he was thinking."

Lloyd said it appeared that Mix and the girl were "clearly just passing through," although he didn't know where they were headed.

Riverside police learned that the girl had been found and was safe shortly before 4 p.m.

"We were surprised he made it to Utah so fast," Medina said. "We were following leads about where he could have possibly been headed up until the time Utah called us to say they had him."

Medina said Riverside police will seek to have Mix extradited as soon as possible, a process that could take days or months, depending on whether Mix challenges the request.

Mix was a family friend who lived with the girl and her father in a large white house in the 4700 block of Chestnut Street.

Clark realized that his daughter was missing at 8:30 a.m. and called police. About the same time, Mix and the 3-foot, 40-pound girl were seen near a downtown San Bernardino bus station.

Mix's 1968 GMC van was found parked in the 3900 block of University Avenue, near the Riverside bus station where the pair are believed to have boarded a bus for San Bernardino.

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