Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A 5-year-old girl who vanished from her home Monday was found later in the day when a passer-by saw her eating lunch at a Utah park with a man who allegedly abducted her, authorities said.
Anabella Jade Clark, who had been the subject of an Amber Alert, was "safely in the hands of authorities there," Deputy Police Chief Andy Pytlak told a news conference in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
"The child is in good condition," he said.
Charles William Mix, 48, a roommate of the girl's father and a part-time worker at the Chino Airport, was believed to have driven Anabella to Richfield, Utah, in his boss' stolen pickup truck, said Officer Lee Nuez, a California Highway Patrol spokesman. Richfield is more than 450 miles from Riverside.
Police said they did not know why the girl was taken, but they were investigating a report that he had claimed he didn't like the way the girl was being treated.
"We have some information that was perhaps the reason he gave. At this point we're not really sure what the motive might be," Pytlak said.
The tip that solved the case came from a person who noticed the two at a park near a church in the Utah city and called local police. The man did not resist arrest, Pytlak said.
"I'm just pretty ecstatic that it turned out as well as it has," Pytlak said.
The witness, Leisa Hilton, 32, of Richfield, told KCAL-TV in Los Angeles she had an intuition that Anabella and Mix did not belong together.
"I hate to be judgmental but in my book he looked scary, he just looked like the wrong person to be with a little girl," Hilton said. "It didn't feel good, it just didn't feel good. It didn't feel right. It was just a wrong feeling and I went totally with that."
Richfield Officer Trent Lloyd said Hilton called police in the town of 7,500 residents when she found it out of the ordinary that a girl was with an older man. Hilton had not heard the Amber Alert either.
"It would have been nice if we got the Amber Alert, but we were lucky," Lloyd said. "When we drove up and saw them, it did look odd. Here's this small child with an elderly man. We thought it was worth checking."
Lloyd said that Mix claimed Anabella was his daughter, but officers ran the license plate of the pickup truck and that's when they found out whoever was driving the vehicle was suspected in the disappearance of the girl.
Mix was being held in Sevier County jail on a detention request by Riverside police. Anabella was placed in foster care. Lloyd said Riverside authorities were traveling to Richfield and were expected by about midnight to begin the process of arresting Mix and bringing the girl back home.
The girl was reported to have disappeared sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Police put out an alert with a description of Anabella, Mix and the white 1968 GMC van he was believed to be driving. By midmorning the van was found abandoned at a Greyhound Bus station in San Bernardino.
Detectives found crude drawings and misspelled words in black marker scrawled all over the inside of the van but do not believe it was Anabella's writing, because some of the pictures were of nearly naked bodies.
"We're not really prepared to tell you what the drawings were" or their significance, Pytlak said.
The deputy chief said the investigation was still in its preliminary phase and detectives had not yet talked to Mix.
Pytlak released little information about the child's family situation. He indicated the father, Chris Clark, had legal custody of the girl and she had lived with him for a couple of years. Her mother, Sabrina Stansbury, thanked law enforcement and told reporters: "Thank God for the Amber Alert."
Gov. Gray Davis issued a statement commending those in Utah who helped find Anabella. "I feel very blessed that Anabella has been found alive and safe," he said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)