A Placentia woman was released apparently unharmed Friday night after being kidnaped by two men who pulled her into a van and drove off as her three grandchildren and a neighbor watched in horror, police said.
But within 7 hours, Anelica Maria Perez, 65, who suffers from diabetes, was released by her abductors and reunited with anxious relatives who had feared the worst.
Placentia Police Lt. Daryll Thomann said the incident appears to have ended happily, but “now we’re just trying to find out what really happened.”
Perez telephoned her family shortly before 9 p.m. from a fast-food restaurant in the City of Industry, near the Fairway Drive exit of the Pomona Freeway, said her daughter, Claudia Flores. Family members and neighbors immediately drove to the area to get her, then took her to an undisclosed location, Flores said.
Police were investigating the incident as a kidnaping but had no known suspects. Even after Perez was released, they were trying to locate and question her about the ordeal.
One relative said that family members may have taken Perez to a hospital for a checkup.
Perez had been sweeping her porch when she was abducted at 3:12 p.m. Friday, police said. A neighbor gave chase, following the van until it pulled onto the northbound Orange Freeway. He then flagged down a police officer and gave a description of the vehicle, a late-model, maroon Chevrolet van. It was found Friday night, abandoned in El Monte.
‘They Took Grandma’
“I called from the store (and) my little niece told me they took grandma,” Claudia Flores said. “I came right home. I found one of her shoes in the middle of the street. She was gone. The police were here.”
But Flores and police were at a loss to come up with a motive for Perez’s kidnaping. And while she was missing, Flores said, she had been frightened that her mother, who lives alone and speaks no English, would be harmed or would suffer because she had not had her insulin shots.
“It doesn’t appear to be a ransom-type situation (because the victim) doesn’t appear to be a person of any financial means. We’re not quite sure what the motive is at this time,” Thomann said.
An added element of mystery is that the same men who forced Perez into the van Friday afternoon apparently had been to her apartment in the 900 block of Easton Street earlier in the day, asking for one of her relatives, Thomann said.
Wouldn’t Identify Relative
He and the victim’s daughter declined to identify the relative, other than to say he is a male who does not live there. Police were trying to locate the relative but said that they had no idea what the kidnapers had wanted with him.
“I don’t know where he is,” a distraught Flores said before her mother was released. “He never lived here. She (her mother) knows nothing about this man. If they are going to beat her and hit her to try to get information, they are going to kill her. She knows nothing.”
“We don’t know who they are,” Flores said of the kidnapers. “We’ll give them anything they want. I just want her back. Tell them (the kidnapers) to contact the family. She needs her insulin.”
Neighbor Maria Galvan said she witnessed the kidnaping.
“This man stopped and took the lady,” Galvan said. “He pushed her in (the van). I was kind of far away. I couldn’t hear anything. But she looked at me and I knew something was wrong. Her grandkids she baby-sits were outside.”
Galvan said she telephoned police while her brother followed the van in a car.
‘She Tried to Resist’
Thomann said one of the abductors grabbed Perez and forced her into a van at curb side, where another man was behind the wheel. “She tried to resist,” he said.
The men drove for several blocks, then stopped and picked up a third man who was standing on a street corner, the officer said. All three men were described as being in their early 20s.
Thomann said some relatives speculated that the kidnaping might be drug-related and possibly in retaliation for something involving a relative. But Thomann said that investigators were skeptical of that explanation.
The van, which was registered to an El Monte business, was recovered in that city, Thomann said. The vehicle’s owner told officers that he had loaned it out.
Until Perez telephoned her home to say that she had been freed, relatives had gathered at her modest apartment to hope and console one another.
“She was baby-sitting my children and my brother’s children,” Flores said. The children, ages 3, 5 and 11, were very upset by the kidnaping, she added.