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Photo Shown on TV’s ‘Missing III’ : Phone Tip Helped Find Van Nuys Boy

Times Staff Writers

An anonymous telephone call, received after a program about missing children was televised nationally last Wednesday, helped break the case of a Van Nuys boy abducted more than two years ago, authorities said Tuesday.

A photograph of 4-year-old Joshua Guerino was one of 20 shown at the conclusion of the NBC program “Missing III,” said John Neustice, an investigator for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Joshua and his father, Johnnie Dean Guerino, 35, of Van Nuys, were reunited early Tuesday in Lombard, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, Lombard Police Detective Gary Johnston said. They were expected to return to Van Nuys sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.

Joshua spent Monday night at the state Department of Children Services in Lombard after the arrest of his mother, Audrey Christine Nelson, 28, and grandmother, Audrey Maxine Nelson, 52, Johnston said.

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Felony Charges Filed

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office Monday filed two counts of felony child stealing against the mother, formerly of Glendora, and one count against the grandmother, formerly of Canoga Park.

Neustice said that Los Angeles Superior Court had awarded full custody of the child to the father.

Police arrested the mother at a company where she works in Lombard, Johnston said. Police then went to the nearby town of Glen Ellyn and found the boy and his grandmother in a house where the three were living, he said.

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The mother and grandmother “said they were expecting us,” he said.

The mother had recently taken Joshua out of a preschool after spotting posters of missing children in the area that included her son’s photograph, Johnston said. The boy’s photograph was featured on milk cartons, grocery bags and public service messages.

“She also dyed his hair from blond to brown to conceal his identity,” Johnston said.

Detective Supplies Address

Lombard police arrested the Nelsons after Neustice telephoned with an address where the mother was thought to be working, Johnston said.

Police found the mother living under a new name with a driver’s license that identified her as Mary Lesh, he said. The grandmother was living under her maiden name of Audrey McGuire, Johnston said.

Arrangements were being made to have them extradited to California, he said.

Neustice said he tracked the women and Joshua through Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. He was aided by the anonymous telephone call after the program and by a lead picked up when he was in Brownsville, Tex., earlier this month, Neustice said.

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Assemblyman Pays for Flight

Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) paid for the father’s flight, which arrived in Chicago Tuesday morning, an aide to Davis said.

The father sought assistance from Davis, who represents Beverly Hills and parts of the San Fernando Valley, about six months ago, the aide said. Davis, who spends much of his time helping find missing children, subsequently arranged meetings among representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office.


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