The Gardena woman heard her daughter yell, "Mom!" as she was washing her car, and by the time she turned around the girl was gone, snatched away by a stranger.
In a panicked six-minute 911 call on April 2, the woman cried and asked for help, pleading with police to find her 2-year-old daughter and, between sobs, asking other customers at the self-serve car wash if they saw anything.
"I just lost my baby, I was in the car wash and I can't find her!" the mother told the 911 dispatcher. "I heard her say 'Mom' … I turned around, we were washing, she was gone."
About 2 1/2 hours later, the little girl reappeared naked and in shock miles away in a Cudahy parking lot, KTLA reported. She had been sexually assaulted, police said.
Now a Torrance man, Michael Ikeler, 36, is in custody on $1 million bail, accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting the toddler.
Before she was found, police had launched a countywide search for the girl, with photos distributed to the media that showed her earlier in the day wearing a purple backpack and a T-shirt with a butterfly print.
Using surveillance footage, police quickly determined the suspected assailant drove a white Nissan Altima. Days later, authorities received a tip that led to Ikeler.
Police say Ikeler owns a white Nissan Altima and changed the appearance of his car after the incident. Two witnesses have identified him as being involved, and DNA evidence recovered during the investigation linked him to the alleged crimes, police said.
Ikeler pleaded not guilty April 13 to two counts of oral copulation of a minor and one count of committing lewd acts on a child during a kidnapping.