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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

June 09, 2003
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Suspect Arrested in Abduction of Calif. Girl

Police: 'Right person arrested in kidnapping'

Source: AP, CNN, Bayarea.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Police said today they were confident that a man arrested in the kidnapping of 9-year-old Jennette Tamayo from her San Jose home was the right person.

The girl was kidnapped Friday afternoon after returning from school, and resurfaced late Sunday unhurt when she walked into a convenience store 30 miles away, in East Palo Alto.

San Jose Police Chief William Lansdowne said the arrested man "did have the vehicle we were looking for. He matches the description. And the physical injuries that he has on his person match the circumstances of this situation. We are very confident it's the right person. We do not have the identification on that person yet."

Deputy Police Chief Rob Davis, who leads the investigation, said the arrested man was not cooperating with authorities.

The man tried to fight off officers and was taken to the hospital after a police dog bit him, Sgt. Steve Dixon said.

The man looked like a police sketch of the suspect and had injuries consistent with what police expected from the struggle he had with Jennette's mother, Lansdowne said.

A videotape of the abduction on Friday taken by a security camera near the girl's home is helping in the search, according to police.

Tamayo was found alive and well Sunday evening when she walked into an East Palo Alto convenience store, whose owner contacted authorities, police said.

"She is healthy, certainly confused a little but does not appear at this time to have been severely injured," Lansdowne said.

Davis said that Jennette had been helpful, giving "us some detail as far as where she went" and "some very good leads." "She's one courageous lady," Davis said.

Davis said that information collected so far lends credence to the theory "that it went beyond just a random act," although he said the abductor was apparently a stranger to the girl and her mother.

"We're pretty comfortable we're just looking for this one individual," Davis said.

Eastside Market owner Isa Yasin said he called police after realizing the child who came into his store was the missing girl.

"She was crying, scared, and I asked, 'How can I help you?' " Yasin recalled.

"She said, 'Please don't call the cops, please don't call the cops,' " he said. "I said, 'OK, I promise you I won't call the cops. Let me help you.' "

Yasin said that when she asked to use his phone she was "panicky" and couldn't dial, so he helped her with a San Jose-area number.

He said he saw no one drop Jennette off near his store and she did not discuss her ordeal.

A security video from a house down the street from the scene of Friday's abduction suggested the girl had been targeted and that the crime was not a burglary gone awry, police said Sunday.

Police released a drawing of the man suspected in the abduction of the girl.

"When [the suspected kidnapper] drove there, he went up to the house [and] spent 12, 13 minutes in the house when no one was home," Police Sgt. Steve Dixon said. "If it was just a burglary, he had the time to do it at that time. But he walked out, sat in his car for 20 to 30 minutes, waited a long time.

"This little girl Jennette Tamayo came home from school, and a minute later he went back to the house."

Police searched the area around the home, going door to door in the neighborhood Sunday, using all-terrain vehicles to hunt fields and a helicopter to scour the surrounding countryside. But the best clue remained the videotape, according to authorities.

"It's a very good piece of evidence," Dixon said, adding that authorities sent the tape to the county crime lab to see whether its images could be enhanced.

"It's kind of a grainy video," he said. But "it does show us a lot of information that we didn't have before."

Neighbors of the Tamayos told police they set up a video recorder after their car had been stolen. The tape shows Jennette and the suspect remained in the house for 30 minutes to an hour, said Officer Catherine Unger.

Police released a sketch of the suspect, describing him as being in his 30s or early 40s and 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 160 pounds with an unshaven face and dark hair. He was wearing a gray knit cap and silver shirt.

Authorities said the suspect left the house and backed his car into the garage. A few minutes later, the girl's mother, 31-year-old Rosalie Tamayo, arrived at home in her car, with her 15-year-old son and her sister, according to police.

The sister got into her car and drove off, while Rosalie Tamayo attempted to open the garage door with an automatic opener, police said.

But the door struck an obstacle and would not open all the way, so the son got out and entered the garage, where he saw the suspect's car and his sister in tears in the back seat, according to authorities.

Almost immediately, the suspect set upon the boy, grabbing his neck and choking him, Dixon said. By this time, the children's mother entered the house and encountered the man at the garage's entrance to the kitchen, where she joined in the fray, police said.

The fight lasted about 10 minutes, Dixon said. Finally, the man lost his grip on the boy, who ran to a neighbor's home to get help, police said.

Before help could be summoned, the tape shows the suspect tear out of the driveway in a late 1980s or early 1990s four-door, silver Honda Accord or similar vehicle, taking out greenery and garbage cans from a neighbor's house.

The son said Jennette was in the back seat, her hands at her side. The mother then ran from the home screaming for help, according to police.

Police released about 20 minutes of the tape, edited down from several hours, in hopes that it might bring clues from the public.






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