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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 1:34 pm | Fair 62º


Police Investigating Baby-Snatching Incidents in Santa Maria

Two babies were snatched from their mothers by two suspects who demanded immediate payment for the infants’ return in separate incidents, months apart, in Santa Maria, police said Monday.

The first incident happened Aug. 15 and the second occurred Dec. 4, Santa Maria police said.

In both cases, the mothers were walking with the infants when they were accosted.

“At this time, it is unconfirmed whether these two incidents are related, and they are still under investigation,” Detective Mike Huffman said. “Based on the information in these investigations, investigators believe the suspects are targeting people whom they know to be in possession of either large amounts of cash or valuable jewelry.”

In the August incident, a mother told police she was walking with her infant between 5 and 6 p.m. near Western Avenue and Knudsen Way when she was approached by a stranger described as a 60- to 65-year-old short, petite Hispanic woman. 

“The female engaged the victim in conversation about having a diamond ring she needed to sell to pay for her father's medical expenses,” police said.

A man joined the conversation, acting as if he didn’t know the first suspect.

Ultimately, the female suspect grabbed and held the victim’s son, and the man forced the mother into the vehicle, which was described as a red, 4-door dirty older model vehicle. 

“The victims were driven to a bank where she was forced to take out money," Huffman said. "During the entire incident, Suspect 1 held the infant victim, claiming that if the victim did not give them sufficient money, she would not get her child back.

“The suspect then drove the victim to her residence where she was ordered to retrieve money and jewelry, which she did.”

The child was returned to the victim, and the suspects fled with an undisclosed amount of money and jewelry, according to police.

In the second incident, a mother told police she was walking with her child near East Boone Street at 11 a.m. Dec. 4  when someone pushed her to the ground.

A large black 4-door sedan pulled alongside the victim, and two suspects forced the mother and child into the vehicle. The mother reported seeing a black handgun in the vehicle.

“One of the suspects produced a large fake diamond and demanded the victim pay a large amount of money for it," Huffman said. "The suspects then drove the victim and her child to her residence. One of the suspects held the victim's son and told her she would not get her child back unless she returned with enough money and jewelry."

The victim went into her residence and retrieved an undisclosed amount of money and jewelry, which she took the suspects, who returned the child before fleeing.

Police said suspects in these types of crimes often target undocumented people, believing they won’t report the crimes due to fears of being deported.

“The SMPD would like to remind the community that whether a victim is a legal citizen of the United States or not, their residential status will not be held against them as a result of victimization. As such, we are requesting their assistance with investigating these crimes.”

Sgt. Paul Van Meel from the Detective Bureau  said he hopes the details of the incidents make people aware of the crimes so they remain alert to protect against any more similar kidnappings. He said the suspects may have targeted the victims knowing they had cash and jewelry

“We do think there’s a possibility that there are more incidents that have been unreported,”  Van Meel added. 

Police are asking that anybody with information about these incidents contact the department at 805.928.3781 or Crime Stoppers at 1.877.800.9100.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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