Boy Thought Abandoned Is Reunited With Mother

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 2-year-old boy whom police and social workers believed had been abandoned in San Diego was reunited with his young mother Monday.

Nicknamed "Kiki" by social workers, the boy was found Feb. 26 at 12th Avenue and Market Street. The tearful reunion between Luis Alberto Pimentel and his mother, Anabel Gonzalez Victoriano, 17, came after a Juvenile Court judge dismissed a no parent or guardian petition and returned custody to Gonzalez. The boy had been placed in foster care.

Gonzalez told social workers that she left her hometown of Salina Cruz, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, in early February in an attempt to reach her husband, Pedro Pimentel, the boy's father, in Santa Ana, where he had been working for about a year.

After reaching Tijuana, Gonzalez and her son were smuggled across the border, but Gonzalez lost her husband's address.

She and her son slept on San Diego streets and ate at the St. Vincent de Paul-Joan Kroc Center until she was "befriended" by two women who had hired her to clean one of the women's apartment, said Joe Maciel, a child-protection social worker for the county Social Services Department.

Gonzalez was unable to provide a detailed description of the women, an address where she was taken or the type of car the women drove, Maciel said. Gonzalez said only that the women were white.

She told social workers that she cleaned for one of the women for about 15 days. The women picked her up on the street near the center and returned her to the same location after the cleaning was done. She took her son with her.

At a press conference Monday--held only minutes after mother and child were reunited--Gonzalez cried as she described in Spanish what happened the day her son disappeared.

Gonzalez said she and her son were in one of the women's car when the woman sent Gonzalez back to her apartment, apparently to run an errand. While waiting for an elevator to take her to the woman's apartment, Gonzalez said, "I heard the car take off. . . . Then when she came back, she didn't have him.

"She said that the police had taken him. I kept asking her where he was, that I wanted to see him. Then she said that he was in the doctor's because he had an infection. I told her that my son was not sick," Gonzalez said.

That night, the child was found at 12th and Market by a woman who tried to locate the parents by knocking on several nearby houses and businesses before turning him over to the police. San Diego police took him to the Social Services Department. It was unclear how Luis ended up on the corner.

After Monday's press conference, Yolanda Thomas, a social services spokeswoman, said Gonzalez stayed in the woman's apartment for six or seven days, "until she became desperate that she would not see her son again."

Thomas said that Gonzalez left the apartment and found a Spanish-speaking stranger who helped her place a call to her stepfather in Oaxaca.

Her stepfather, Javier Reyes Estrada, flew to Tijuana and crossed the border illegally Thursday. He met Gonzalez near the St. Vincent center that night and tried to locate the child on his own. By coincidence, a press conference announcing that the child had been found on the street had been held that same day. When Reyes went to the San Diego police, they put him in contact with social workers, Thomas said.

To establish that she was the mother, social workers asked Gonzalez to describe the clothes the boy was wearing, Maciel said, adding that she also described a birthmark on the boy's foot.

Authorities will not file charges against the mother, Maciel said, adding that the trio were being taken to Tijuana, from where they would fly or take a train to Oaxaca. Thomas said that in the few days Reyes was in San Diego, he was able to secure some work that will offset the cost of returning them to Oaxaca.

"We want to return to Mexico as soon as possible," Reyes said.

Thomas said: "This has turned out to be a very, very, very fortunate and happy occasion."

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