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Girl who vanished from Valley home is found six miles away

The child, 10, is spotted in a Woodland Hills parking lot hours after she was abducted during the night. Two suspects are sought.

March 28, 2013|By Joseph Serna, Kate Mather and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • A vehicle is dusted for prints in the driveway of a home in the 8800 block of Oakdale Avenue near Nordhoff Street in Northridge, where a 10-year-old girl disappeared during the night. According to the preliminary investigation, the girl's mother saw her in her room about 1 a.m., but when she returned to the bedroom about 3:30 a.m., the child was gone. The woman called police.
A vehicle is dusted for prints in the driveway of a home in the 8800 block of… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

Authorities late Wednesday were trying to unravel how a 10-year-old girl vanished from her Northridge bedroom in the middle of the night, then mysteriously reappeared with cuts and bruises half a day later and miles away.

Police said they were looking for two men they believe were involved and have recovered a black pickup. The LAPD has nothing to connect the men to the girl in terms of previous contact, police sources said.

"I've got a young lady that was abducted. I don't know the reason," said Los Angeles Police Department Capt. William P. Hayes.

At a news conference earlier in the day, LAPD officials said they believe the girl was dropped off at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills, six miles from her home. She was seen wandering in a nearby parking lot and recognized by a bystander, who pointed her out to police on patrol.

It is unclear who dropped the girl off and how she may have left or been lured from her Northridge home. She reportedly disappeared from her bedroom sometime between 1 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.

"We don't know what happened inside of the house," said Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andy Smith. "But it certainly would appear that she didn't make it from her house over here a distance of some six miles all by herself."

The girl's mother told authorities that she saw her daughter in her bedroom about 1 a.m. She checked on her about two hours later because she noticed the bedroom door was ajar. She looked in and saw that the girl was gone. She searched the entire house, then called police.

Police said they took the missing child report extremely seriously because the girl had no behavioral issues or problems with her parents. She had never run away before, police said.

"She wasn't that kind of kid," Smith said.

About 2:50 p.m., the girl was found near Oxnard Street and Canoga Avenue. She had cuts and bruises, some to her face. In news helicopter footage, she appeared to be barefoot and wearing clothing different from what she had on when she was last seen.

"She basically is in shock right now," Capt. Kris Pitcher said.

A manager of a nearby animation studio, who saw the girl when he went to a gas station near a Starbucks and Goodwill store where she was found, said the preteen looked drained.

"Her face was white. She looked very tired and worried," said Nicolas Jackson, manager of Moonscoop. "You could see she had some worries for the past few hours."

Authorities are reviewing security camera footage from every business in the area. A house-to-house search in a two-mile-wide grid around the girl's home was launched after she disappeared but turned up nothing.

Late in the day, however, Hayes said authorities had secured several locations where they believe the girl had been taken and said multiple cars had been used.

Pitcher said police are "turning over every stone so we can catch up with" the people responsible for the girl's abduction.

Still, Smith cautioned, there is no evidence someone is roaming neighborhoods looking to kidnap children.

"We're going to search every facet of this case, to find out what happened, and to get to the bottom of it," he said. "It's every parent's nightmare: In the middle of the night you go check on your child … your child is gone."

Times staff writer Ari Bloomekatz contributed to this report.

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