A restaurant manager who was kidnaped from her job at gunpoint leaped from a moving car in Sand Canyon early Sunday to escape her assailant.
Sonia Maithonis, 26, jumped from the car, which was traveling at about 15 m.p.h., because she thought that the gunman would sexually assault her after abducting her from the parking lot of a Taco Bell restaurant on Lyons Avenue in Newhall at 1:15 a.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
The Santa Clarita woman was shaken by the incident, but suffered only scrapes and bruises. "It appears to be a very good choice," Lt. Dan Reidder said of Maithonis' leap.
Ironically, Maithonis had taken safety precautions as she left work.
After Maithonis finished closing the restaurant along a commercial street in the usually quiet suburban neighborhood, fellow employee Mark Marcado, 18, walked her to her car.
As Maithonis slid into the driver's seat, the gunman appeared outside the vehicle and warned Marcado to back off.
"He had a gun pointed at this male employee and said, 'Open the door or I'll kill this guy,' " Reidder said.
Maithonis, who had locked the door as soon as she saw the gunman, did as she was told.
The gunman ordered Maithonis into the passenger's seat before getting behind the wheel of her car and driving off. All the while, he kept the gun trained on Maithonis.
"He told her if she tried anything, he would kill her," Reidder said.
As the gunman drove east on narrow and dark Placerita Canyon Road, he indicated to Maithonis that he planned to sexually assault her, Reidder said.
Eight miles into the journey, as the gunman slowed at the intersection of Placerita Canyon and Sand Canyon Road, Maithonis flung herself from the car. The gunman continued driving, authorities said.
Meanwhile, Marcado had run into the restaurant to call 911.
The Sheriff's Department immediately sent deputies to the Taco Bell and broadcast descriptions of Maithonis' 1986 blue Ford Crown Victoria.
A deputy searching the area for the car found Maithonis just minutes after she had jumped.
Authorities were still searching Sunday for the gunman, who also made off with an unknown amount of night receipts from the restaurant.