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Abducted girl case: A noise awoke mother to missing daughter

March 29, 2013|By Kate Mather and Richard Winton

The mother of a Northridge girl who was abducted in the middle of the night was awakened by a sound just before she discovered her daughter was gone, police said.

After checking on her daughter at 1 a.m. Wednesday, the mother awoke again around 3:40 a.m. to a noise.

When she got up to check on her daughter, she noticed the 10-year-old girl’s door was ajar. When she peered inside her daughter’s bedroom, it was empty.

"It's every parent's nightmare,” said LAPD Capt. Kris Pitcher. “In the middle of the night you go check on your child … your child is gone."

The discovery launched a frantic manhunt that involved several San Fernando Valley police agencies and the FBI. Authorities launched a house-to-house search in a two-mile radius around the home.

The search turned up nothing and police turned to the public for help, posting the girl’s name and photo across news outlets in case anyone recognized her.

Just before 3 p.m. the same day, it worked. Some six miles away in a Kaiser Permanente Medical Center parking lot in Woodland Hills, the girl was recognized by a bystander. She was alone, just walking around, according to police.

She appeared to be wearing different clothes than when she had last been seen and had cuts and bruises and was “in shock,” said Cmdr. Andy Smith.

The Times is not identifying the girl by name because she is believed to be the victim of a sexual assault.

The bystander guided the girl to police officers on routine patrol a short distance away in a Chevron gas station and Starbucks parking lot. Within minutes, police shut the area down and began searching for clues on how the girl got there.

Police briefly interviewed the girl Wednesday.

“We didn't get everything that we'd like to get," Smith said.

Since the girl’s reappearance, police seized a black pickup truck they believed was used in the abduction. They’re also looking for a second vehicle. Authorities said they’re searching for two men, one who is about 18 years old by the girl’s estimate.

Although detectives spoke with the girl after she was found, Smith said she was "traumatized" and able to provide only some information.

Investigators planned to re-interview the girl, who is resting with her family at home, a second time. The girl told authorities she was put in several vehicles "throughout the course of the 12-hour ordeal," Smith said.

A storage facility has been searched, as has a black truck believed to be involved.

Authorities also are appealing to the public for information about two male suspects. Detailed descriptions were not available. Anyone with information is asked to call (213) 486-6890.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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