The woman's motherly instincts kicked in and she said to the suspect, "That's my child, give her back to me."
Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 8, 2021. It has since been updated.
A 12-year-old girl narrowly escaped from the clutches of a kidnapper thanks to the quick thinking of a good Samaritan who intervened. Talking to KTLA, the child named Amy Martinez revealed that she was just walking on Main Street in Santa Ana to Lathrop Intermediate School when a woman who was described as homeless grabbed her out of nowhere. "I thought that I was never going to see my mom or my family again," the youngster said of the 2018 incident. "She just came up to me and went like this," Amy said, simulating a bear hug. "And then she started walking with me away."
Good Samaritan foils kidnapping of girl walking to school in Santa Ana https://t.co/qumFXQVE2q— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) February 22, 2018
The young girl said she screamed for help. "She told me in Spanish not to cry, but I wasn't even crying," Amy revealed. "I thought I wouldn't see my mom or my dad again. She was saying that the demons are coming, Satan is here." Fortunately, as the suspect forced her to walk, the child saw another woman driving by. Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told reporters that the woman in the car, who had just dropped off her child at a local high school and was headed home, saw what was going on and quickly devised a plan to stop the possible kidnapping. "Amy was kind of struggling to get away, so then those were the signs that something wasn't right," the good Samaritan, who did not want to be identified, told KABC-TV.
Woman Prevents Girl’s Kidnapping by Pretending to be Her Motherhttps://t.co/8UYCPJQgt4— Good News Network (@goodnewsnetwork) February 27, 2018
"I'll never forget the way she looked at me," the woman told NBC Los Angeles. "Her eyes were screaming for help." She quickly pulled over and asked the child if she was OK, and Amy said no. "She doesn't know if it's a mother having an issue with her daughter, but something doesn't look right because the suspect is homeless and her hair's messy,'' Bertagna said of the stranger. "So she makes a turn, comes around and asked the young victim, 'Are you OK?' and the victim looked at her and shook her head no, and she could see the fright in her eyes.''
Woman Arrested After Allegedly Trying to Kidnap 12-Year-Old Girl in Santa Ana; ‘Hero’ Thwarts Attempt https://t.co/vOktZbGpFF pic.twitter.com/StJuAtl15s— KTLA (@KTLA) February 22, 2018
Acutely aware of the urgency of the situation, the woman quickly came up with a little white lie to bring the situation to a safe end. "She said she had, in her mind, had five seconds to come up with something to save this child," Bertagna said. "She tells the suspect that she's the child's mother and she wants the child back." He added that the helpful stranger's "motherly instincts kicked in and she told the suspect, 'That's my child, give her back to me.' It took three times of her saying that and the woman let her go."
"I was basically yelling, 'Let her go,' so as soon as my voice changed, she let her go and Amy walked into my car," the good Samaritan said. The rescuer called the police and the child's family as she drove Amy to school. "It's a place where there's a lot of cars and not one stopped until this lady came, in our eyes, she's our angel," said Cinthia Esparza, the girl's aunt. Based on a detailed description provided by the rescuer, police arrested a 34-year-old woman named Claudia Cruz Hernandez on suspicion of kidnapping a minor younger than 14. Praising the woman who stopped the possible kidnapping, Bertagna said: "We always say if you see something say something. Well, she saw something and did something."
Amy's mom also thanked the unnamed woman for stepping in to save her daughter. "I just want to say thank you so much and I hope that there's more people like you out there," she said. Meanwhile, the rescuer said she would do it again if she had to. "You're a parent, you see somebody else's child in danger, automatically you react as if it was yours," she said.