Police sketch of kidnapper

Girl escapes from kidnapper in south Sacramento

Published: Tuesday, May. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 15, 2013 - 7:53 am

When Christina Covey heard the screech of tires about 1 p.m. Saturday, she looked out of her 47th Avenue home and saw a little girl holding onto the trunk of a car.

The child let go and hit the pavement, Covey said. The driver started to get out of the car but then got back in and sped away, leaving the girl in the roadway.

"I thought it was a hit-and-run, because she was in the middle of the street," Covey said.

The child got up and ran to Covey's husband.

"She told my husband, 'He stole me. He stole me,' " Covey recalled.

In a telephone interview with The Bee on Monday, Covey recounted the dramatic ending to what Sacramento County sheriff's officials are investigating as a brazen kidnapping.

The youngster went on to tell Covey and her husband that the man had grabbed her as she and her mother walked along 47th Avenue in south Sacramento and forced her into the trunk of the car.

Covey said the girl told her she pushed her knee up to keep the trunk from latching.

"She was so brave," said Covey, who walked the youngster back down the street about four blocks, where she was reunited with her mother.

According to the Sheriff's Department, the kidnapping occurred about 1 p.m. as the 7-year-old girl and her mother were walking in the 5300 block of 47th Avenue.

When the man pulled up and grabbed the girl, her mother screamed, alerting a nearby resident, who called 911.

The girl suffered scratches in her effort to escape.

The Sheriff's Department on Monday released a sketch and description of the kidnapper.

He is described as a man 25 to 35 years old, with light brown skin, about 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and weighing 170 to 190 pounds. He had black shoulder-length hair worn in either braids or dreadlocks.

He was wearing a black shirt with a white printed design on the front.

The kidnapper's car was described as a dark green or blue four-door sedan with tinted windows.

Officer Michele Gigante, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Police Department, said city police have talked with sheriff's investigators and are trying to determine whether the abductor in this case was the man involved in a similar incident about 3:55 p.m. Wednesday at Honor Parkway and Bill Bean Circle in the North Natomas area. In that case, Gigante said, an 11-year-old girl was walking home when she was approached by a man in an SUV who got out and told her to get in the vehicle.

The girl ran away.

The description of the man – an African American in his 20s, with long hair – is similar to that of the man in Saturday's kidnapping, although the vehicles were different.

Gabe Ross, a spokesman for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said the district Monday alerted parents of students at Nicholas, Clayton B. Wire and Pacific elementary schools and Fern Bacon Middle School to Saturday's incident via written notices and automated phone calls.

The notifications included a description of the kidnapper and safety tips for children walking to and from school.

Saturday's kidnapping left mothers Angel Burkholder and Wanda Goodspeed at wits' end.

It occurred only blocks from their homes on busy 47th Avenue.

Burkholder was trying to make sense of what happened Saturday, what's happened to her block and what it means for her children.

"I'm a single mother with two kids," she said. "Nobody wants to speak up about it. You keep being scared and nothing's going to happen."

Goodspeed's daughters and other pupils at Nicholas Elementary School received bright pumpkin- orange fliers with a dark warning for their families: look out for a man who snatched a girl from her mother in broad daylight.

For families, a checklist for their children: Avoid walking alone to and from school.

Be alert. Avoid shortcuts. Never get into the car of someone they don't know. If followed by a car, run in the opposite direction.

"It's so scary now. You can't let your kids be alone," Goodspeed said outside Nicholas Elementary School on Steiner Drive, where her two daughters attend school. "I don't know what to do. They took her from her mother. What are you supposed to do? I have no words for what's going on right now."

Burkholder lives a few doors away from Nicholas Elementary. But not for long.

After three burglaries in as many months, Burkholder said she and her two boys are moving to Elk Grove.

Plywood still covers the window from the last break-in. On a warm Monday evening, the boys played in a sprinkler in a front yard fenced off by a chin-high iron gate.

Burkholder's boys go to nearby Pacific Elementary, and she received the emailed news from her principal just after 5 p.m.

"I think it's absolutely crazy. You can't walk with your kid," Burkholder said from behind the gate.

Tamara Bennett, pastor of This Is Pentecost Ministries, a church that is working to counter gangs and other violent activity in the south Sacramento area, said the church staff had sent email alerts to members of the congregation with the kidnapper's description.

"This is so devastating in that it was done in broad daylight, when she was walking with her mother," Bennett said.

As part of ongoing activities, she said, members of the congregation plan to meet with the Sheriff's Department to talk about what can be done to improve safety in the neighborhood.

Covey said Saturday's experience was an emotional one for her as a mother. From now on, she said, either she or a teenage son will escort her elementary school-age daughter to school.

Anyone with information regarding either of the incidents is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at (916) 874-5115 or the Sacramento Police Department's dispatch center at (916) 264-5471.

Tip information also may be left at www.sacsheriff.com anonymously, by texting to 274637 and entering the keyword SSD, or by calling (916) 874-8477.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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