Kidnapped Girl Helped Lead Police to Suspect With Pizza Clue
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The 9-year-old girl snatched from her home and held for two days by a stranger managed to remain alert despite her horrifying ordeal and later helped lead police to her abductor, authorities said.
David Montiel Cruz was taken into custody early Monday less than a mile from where police say he brutally beat the girl's mother and brother, then sped away with her in his car.
Cruz, 24, was booked on suspicion of kidnapping, burglary, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and sexual assault. Police said he will likely be charged Tuesday or early Wednesday; his arraignment was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.
"The motive appears to be a sexual abduction, because we don't see any other motive at this point," Assistant Chief Thomas Wheatley said Monday. Police said they have physical evidence of a sexual assault.
The girl, Jennette Tamayo, turned up at a convenience store several cities away late Sunday. Police said Monday they believe Cruz knew of the fourth-grade girl through one of her former schoolmates, though neither the girl nor her family knew him.
A SWAT team raided a San Jose home where he was staying with a friend and found him hiding in the attic, Deputy Chief Rob Davis said. He tried to fight off officers and was briefly hospitalized after a police dog bit him. Cruz resembled a police sketch of the suspect and had injuries consistent with what police expected from the struggle he had with Tamayo's mother, Chief William Lansdowne said.
"We're very confident this is the right person," Lansdowne said. Reunited with her family, the girl was in good spirits, and she provided investigators with key information leading to the arrest, Lansdowne said. One key break came when the girl said a pepperoni pizza had been delivered to the house where she was being held. Computer records provided to police by the owner of a nearby store helped police track the order to Cruz, Lansdowne told CBS's "The Early Show" on Tuesday.
In addition, the worker who delivered the pizza was participating in the national Amber Alert notification system launched to help find the girl. The worker said he even advised Cruz to be on the lookout for the missing child. "The odd thing is that actually we were passing out the flier with our deliveries and so I handed him a flier saying this little girl is missing," Lamar Cox told ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday.
The girl's mother, her face still swollen and bruised from Friday's attack, thanked authorities, the media and her neighbors before she began to choke back tears.
"I want to tell all mothers not to let your kids walk alone on the street, no matter how secure it is," Roselia Tamayo said in Spanish. "Because when you feel you lose a child, I think it is like the feeling of dying."
Police conducted an extensive search over the weekend for the intruder after he kidnapped the girl as she returned home alone from school Friday. The captor savagely beat her mother and brother after they returned home and confronted him, then sped off with the terrified girl in the back seat of his car.
The girl's ordeal ended when she suddenly appeared at the Eastside Market in East Palo Alto, about 30 miles north of her home. "She was crying and scared," said Isa Yasin, the owner of the shop.
The girl was probably dropped off by her captor, who might have been frightened by the attention the case received, Davis said.
The kidnapper told the girl not to call police, so she first tried to call her mother, though she was too shaken to dial the number. Yasin realized who she was after talking briefly with her and called police.
Davis said police believed all along the abduction was not a random crime: not only did the attacker wait for the girl to return home, he twice told her mother "you know what I want" as he beat her before screeching off.
In the girl's neighborhood, residents poured into the streets to hug and celebrate as news of her return spread. Some parents vowed to be more vigilant. "I'm not going to leave the kids out of sight at all. I may run into the house to get something, but I'm going be on them constantly," said Meredith Willis. Much of the abduction was captured in a grainy videotape produced by surveillance cameras mounted on a neighbor's home.
In most cases, The Associated Press does not identify victims or alleged victims of sexual assault. In this case, the girl's name had been widely used because of her abduction.