Parents have been told numerous times to never leave their children inside a running vehicle. Within seconds, the car along with the kids can disappear. This week in San Diego, California, a quick-thinking little girl saved her life and that of her 3-year-old little brother. She called 911 and alerted authorities the woman who stole her dad’s car intended on taking them to Mexico.
Rodney Cole went to the store on Monday afternoon to buy his daughter, Malayha, some hair ties. He left the car running with the keys in the ignition. The air conditioning was still running. Shortly after Cole went inside the store, a woman allegedly jumped inside the running vehicle before speeding away.
Cole told local TV station KNSD he tried chasing after the car on foot but was unable to catch up to it.
“I almost caught [them] but she started driving erratically,” Cole said. “She got to the light and ran the light and made a left, and I was just stuck in the middle of the street crying and bawling. I didn’t know what to do. These are my babies.”
8-year-old Malayha had an idea. “I said ‘If you don’t take us back to our daddy, I’ll call the police,’ ” she later told the station in an interview with her father. “And then she threatened me and said ‘If you don’t give me the phone, I’ll drive in circles and crash into this car.’ ”
Undaunted by the woman’s threats,, she called for help, telling the 911 operator from the back seat how she and her brother had been kidnapped. She noticed freeway signs that said “Mexico.” The San Diego Police department sent all the officers they could. They also alerted the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. All cars heading to Mexico were stopped and searched.
An hour later, police located the vehicle at the San Ysidro border checkpoint. Leslie Esparanza Saenz, 26 was arrested and taken into custody. ‘PEOPLE confirms that she has been charged with four felonies, including carjacking, kidnapping to commit a robbery, vehicle theft and threatening to cause death.’
She hasn’t yet entered a plea and is being held without bond. It’s unknown whether she’s retained an attorney to speak on her behalf.
The Sheriff’s department is reminding folks to never leave your children unattended in a running vehicle. Cole said in the interview that he grew up in the neighborhood and believed it was safe.
“I’m just thankful for God, and I’m very, very thankful for the San Diego Police Department and every other law enforcement agency that joined in and found my kids within an hour,” he said through tears. “Each five minutes that went by seemed like a day.”