The case of a Long Beach baby kidnapped and found dead near the Mexican border grew more mysterious Wednesday when investigators said the infant’s mother was followed and possibly approached by an assailant before the attack.
The mother was on her way home carrying her daughter on Jan. 3 when a woman driving a dark-colored Range Rover with large black rims stopped next to her on the street and spoke with her.
It was a "basic conversation" that didn't leave the girl's mother with any suspicion that "something was going to happen" later, said Lt. Lloyd Cox.
But less than two hours later, a man walked into the Delacruz family home in the 100 block of West 51st Street, shot the baby’s parents and uncle and whisked the girl away.
Eliza Delacruz was 3 weeks old when she was kidnapped. Her body was found the next day in a plastic bag amid trash in an Imperial Beach Dumpster, just off a freeway near the Mexican border.
Police said the family was targeted.
"We still have not figured out the cause of why they were selected or why they chose to go through such a horrendous effort of shooting three individual adults and then kidnapping a child and then later murdering it," Lloyd said. "It's baffling to us."
Investigators have exhaustively searched for clues and any connection between the attackers and the victims. Nothing indicates that the family was involved in gang or drug activity and human trafficking doesn't make sense because the baby was killed, Lloyd said.
The mother was busy with routine activities the day of the kidnapping, nothing that would "draw attention," he said.
She boarded a bus with her baby the day of the attack and unbeknownst to her, the woman in the dark Range Rover was following, police said.
Two security camera videos from businesses along the bus route show the SUV trailing the bus as it goes along its route.
A third video shows that after mother and baby got off the bus about 4:15 p.m. at the Del Amo and Long Beach boulevard stop, the driver of the SUV approached them. About 90 minutes later, the family was attacked.
A cause of death for Eliza has not been released. Police said they were unable to get a license plate number from the videos and have sent copies of the recordings to the FBI in Washington, D.C., for enhancement.
Meanwhile, detectives are contacting registered owners of local 2006 to 2011 Range Rovers that fit the description of the one involved in the abduction.
A $25,000 reward offered by Los Angeles County for information leading to the capture and conviction of the assailants remains available, police said.
Authorities are urging anyone who may know something about the case to call the Long Beach Police Department at (562) 435-6711. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may call (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or text TIPLA plus the tip to 274637 or go to www.LACrimeStoppers.org.