A woman pleaded guilty Monday and was immediately sentenced to four years in prison for trying to kidnap a 12-year-old girl walking to school in Santa Ana.
Claudia Hernandez, 35, pleaded guilty to attempted kidnapping of a child younger than 14 and child stealing, both felonies.
Hernandez attempted to abduct the girl about 7:45 a.m. Feb. 21 on Main Street at McFadden Avenue as the youngster was en route to Lathrop Intermediate School.
A woman who was driving by was credited by police with rescuing the youngster. She had just dropped her own child off at a local high school and was headed home when she saw the attempted abduction, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
The good Samaritan’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,” Bertagna said then.
The girl’s rescuer drove her to her school, where police and her family were called.
The good Samaritan provided a detailed description of the suspect, and police “saturated” the area and tracked down Hernandez, who was believed to be homeless at the time, Bertagna said.
Amy Martinez, who spoke to reporters with her aunt standing nearby, said she was scared when the suspect approached and grabbed her in a bear hug.
“I thought that I was never going to see my mom or my family again,” she said.
“She told me in Spanish not to cry,” the child said then.
The girl’s rescuer, who did not want her name used, said the youngster “was kind of struggling to get away, so then those were the signs that something wasn’t right.” She said she “was basically yelling, `Let her go,’ so as soon as my voice changed, she let her go and Amy walked (to) my car.”