This time, thanks to an Amber Alert and the quick thinking of a still unidentified good citizen, a kidnap attempt on an 8 year-old girl failed. Elisa Cardenas was found by police and returned to her family after she escaped her alleged kidnapper's truck when he slowed to avoid another driver. The suspect, Gregorio Gonzalez, is now in police custody.
Elisa Cardenas was playing in the front yard of a home with some friends when Gonzalez allegedly tried to lure the girls into his truck with promises to buy them treats at the local dollar store, reports MSNBC. The other children walked away, but Elisa got close enough to the vehicle to be grabbed. Adults witnessing the scene tried to run after the truck and then searched the neighborhood, but could not locate the suspect. A state-wide Amber Alert went into effect.
At some point, a car following the truck recognized it from media reports, writes MSNBC. The driver, who has not yet been identified, saw Elisa's head in the window of the truck and then cut into the path of the truck. This gave Elisa enough time to escape her kidnapper. She was found after an 11 hour search on the roadside, near the Fresno airport.
This is one time where the system set in place by the Amber Alert worked exactly as hoped and saved a child's life. The Amber Alert system is used to broadcast information about a child abduction. An Amber Alert is broadcast over media and electronic outlets such as TV, radio, email and texts. Messages come from law enforcement and include the name and description of the abducted child, a description of the suspected abductor and the abductor's vehicle, as well as a license plate number, if available.
The acronym AMBER stands for "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response," but the system is also named for 9 year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas, in 1996. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the PROTECT Act which set aside $20 million for grants to the states to develop or enhance their Amber Alert systems. Amber Alert systems now exist in all 50 states. The Department of Justice reports that 71 children were recovered in 2004 thanks to the Amber Alert system.
Elisa Cardenas was reunited with her family at the Community Regional Medical Center. "I've got to tell you, it was a highlight of my career to see Elisa and her mom reunite in that hospital room," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told MSNBC.
- Driver cuts off truck, abducted Calif. girl flees (AP)
- Kidnapping (FindLaw)
- California Sex Offender Laws Under Review (FindLaw's Blotter)
- CA Plans Quick Response to Find Missing Children (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Criminal Law FAQ (provided by Brickfield & Donahue)
- Criminal Law Info Center (provided by Law Office of James W. Winslow, P.C.)