Following Description in Amber Alert, Man Cuts off Truck and Rescues Abducted Girl
On October 10, 2010, eight year old Elisa Cardenaz (Cardenas) was playing outside her Fresno, California home with five of her friends when a man in a red pickup truck approached them. The man lured the girls over to his truck. Two female adults recognized something was wrong and hollered for the girls to run. The man quickly grabbed Elisa and drove away as witnesses chased the vehicle. Elisa’s mother noticed the commotion and jumped into her car to give chase but could not catch up with the truck.
An Amber Alert was issued within the hour. The girl was wearing a light purple sweater with Winnie the Pooh on the front and blue jeans. The suspect was described as a white or Hispanic male wearing a white tank top and blue jeans. The vehicle was described as a brown or red 1980’s or 1990’s Fort pickup truck with a white horizontal stripe on the side.
More than 130 officers were called in to search for the missing girl. While helicopters flew overhead conducting aerial surveillance, police went door-to-door canvassing a three mile area around the site of the abduction.
Several hours later, Victor Perez, noticed a red truck that fit the Amber Alert description of the vehicle. The truck was parked a couple of blocks away from the girls home. Perez recognized the truck from the description – a red truck with a white stripe on the side. When the truck began to leave, Victor followed it. As Perez explained, “I was yelling at him, and I kept cutting him off so he would get off the road.” Perez hollered at the driver, “I need to talk to you.” The driver responded, “No, my truck is messing up. I need to leave” and continued speeding away.
Perez at first did not see the little girl but he continue to cut the truck off in an attempt to force the driver to pull over. Then he saw the little girl stick her head out. Perez noticed that the abductor was hiding her, pushing her down and thought to himself, “OK, that ain’t your little girl in there.” Finally Perez was able to force the truck off the road. The driver, 24-year old Gregorio Gonzalez, a member of Bulldogs street gang, shoved the little girl out of the truck and into the roadway. The little girl ran to safety.
Perez stayed with the girl and called 911. Perez told her, “It’s fine, you’re fine now.”
Elisa was taken to a local hospital where it was confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted but otherwise was not physically injured. She explained that Gonzalez had taken the girl to a rural area by a canal and sexually assaulted her. She said he warned her that he would hurt her more if she tried to escape.
40 minutes later, another tip arrived. Following the lead, Police rushed to a nearby Fresno apartment and found Gonzalez in the parking lot of the apartment about to leave. Gonzalez was arrested on charges of kidnapping, sexual assault, and false imprisonment. Police noted that Gonzalez fit the description of a man who exposed himself to two girls earlier that day.
Police explained afterward that Gonzalez was on probation for felony domestic violence conviction and had been arrested numerous times. The pickup belonged to Gonzalez’s grandmother. Shortly after borrowing the pickup truck, he had texted his grandmother telling her that her truck had been stolen. The grandmother responded that she saw on TV that the police were looking for it in connection with a kidnapping case.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, told media, “I’ve got to tell you, it was the highlight of my career seeing the victim and her mom unite in the hospital room. We beat the odds today because in many cases, we don’t find the child alive. We are very fortunate that the girl was found alive.”
Dyer noted that 40% of children abducted in similar situations are killed before police are even alerted. Within 24 hours, 90% are dead. “It was truly a miracle of God.”