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4-Year-Old Girl, Taken in Stolen Car, Found Safe

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 4-year-old girl abducted by a suspected car thief Saturday afternoon was found unharmed a few hours later and quickly reunited with her family, ending an tense search.

“She’s pretty chipper,” said Katie’s mother, Beverly Foster of Fountain Valley, who was contacted at home Saturday night. “She’s showing off right now, and she seems like she’s doing well.”

Foster, 35, and her husband, Randy Foster, 37, were reunited with their daughter more than two hours after a Hawaiian Gardens man drove off in Huntington Beach with the family car and Katie, who was sitting in the front seat.

The girl was waiting in the car while her father made several trips between a parking lot and a Sir Jack’s Meats, a butcher in the 20900 block of Brookhurst Street. He had left the keys in the ignition and was loading about 100 pounds of meat into the back of the vehicle, Beverly Foster said.

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When the father emerged from the shop about 2:50 p.m. to find both his daughter and the car missing, he called police, who issued an all-points bulletin and began a search.

An Anaheim police officer finally spotted the vehicle about 5 p.m. near the intersection of Nohl Ranch Road and Serrano Avenue in Anaheim Hills and freed Katie without incident.

Pedro Morales, 32, was arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto and kidnaping and taken to Huntington Beach Jail, Huntington Beach Lt. Patrick Gildea said.

Huntington Beach Sgt. Jim Dahl said the child was largely unaffected by the ordeal, and police speculated that Morales may not have intended to kidnap the girl when he took the car.

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“Apparently, the suspect wasn’t hostile towards her,” Dahl said.

Just hours after her abduction, Katie--the youngest of three children--was turning somersaults in the middle of the living room at her Fountain Valley home, giggling and squealing at the attention focused on her, her mother said.

“It was very scary for a while,” Foster said. “I just kept trying to think she was OK and that he wouldn’t hurt her.”

The girl’s parents were flown to the arrest scene by a Huntington Beach police helicopter, then were taken home in a squad car about 8 p.m. Saturday, the mother said.

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Katie “wanted to ride in the helicopter, but that wasn’t able to be arranged,” Foster said. “It’s been a busy afternoon, and I’m just glad she’s home.”


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