Man Held in Arson at Seniors’ Quarters, O.C. Kidnap

Times Staff Writer

A Laguna Niguel man has been arrested after kidnapping a 14-year-old girl in Brea and setting several fires at a Cerritos senior assisted-living facility during a bizarre and desperate search for the girl’s mother, police said Wednesday.

Edward Robert Dreher, 32, was being held at the Orange County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping, child endangerment and false imprisonment, said Brea Police Sgt. Jack Conklin. Bail was set at $100,000. Dreher, arrested late Tuesday, faces additional charges in Los Angeles County for alleged arson and burglary, police said.

Authorities said they did not know why Dreher was looking for the woman, whose name was not released. Dreher’s father, Robert, said in a telephone interview from his home in Irvine that his son suffers from manic depression and did not know the woman or daughter.

Authorities say Dreher drove to the woman’s home in Brea about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday to look for her. Her daughter told Dreher that she was hospitalized in Cerritos.


Dreher persuaded the girl to get inside his gray minivan to jot down the name and address of her mother’s facility, authorities said. After the girl got into the front seat, she couldn’t open the door from the inside, Conklin said.

Dreher drove her to Cerritos, where he searched for a hospital for two hours before stopping at Avalon at Cerritos, an assisted-living facility for seniors on Falcon Way, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Reynolds.

“He mistook it for the hospital where the girl’s mom was being treated,” Conklin said. “I don’t know what his mind-set was. We just know he was trying to get to the woman.”

Dreher left the girl in the vehicle and broke into the rear of the facility, Conklin said. He set several fires by igniting furniture with a lighter while many seniors were asleep, police said.


The fires caused minor damage, and one person was taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation, Reynolds said.

Dreher returned to his van and drove for several miles, Conklin said. He saw two ambulance attendants and made a “bizarre and unusual comment to them,” Conklin said.

The attendants saw that the girl in the vehicle appeared frightened, Conklin said, and called police. Dreher was arrested without a struggle, Conklin said. The girl, who reportedly was not physically injured, was released to her father.

Police said Dreher was not on drugs or alcohol but may have a mental illness.


Robert Dreher said his son has recently been hospitalized in mental institutions. He said Tuesday’s alleged crimes most likely occurred because his son refuses to take his medications for manic depression, which he said was diagnosed when the son was 16.

“It has everything to do with it,” the father said. “He’s not thinking straight. He called me at 4 a.m. [Wednesday], totally ranting and raving. He needs to go back and get some help.”