FRESNO — A kidnapped 8-year-old girl was reunited with her mother in central Fresno Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after her abduction, but troubling news soon followed. Police say the girl was sexually assaulted during her captivity.
Authorities said that the young girl was forced into a pickup in front of her home just after 8 p.m. on Monday. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said that the suspect, Gregorio Gonzalez, 24, of Fresno, drove the girl to a wooded area near a canal and sexually assaulted her.
An Amber Alert was issued Monday night after Elisa Cardenez was taken from her Fresno home while playing outside. Detailed descriptions of the little girl and her kidnapper were released to the media and then became public around 8:30 p.m. PCT.
At approximately 7 a.m. on Tuesday, a man spotted a car that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle at the intersection of Thesta and Hammond streets.
According to Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, the witness attempted to help the girl escape by cutting off 25-year-old Gregorio Gonzalez’s brown pickup truck in traffic.
“He began to follow the vehicle. A short time later he saw Elisa stick her head up,” Dyer said in a news conference on Tuesday morning. “He knew right then and there that he had the suspect vehicle.”
Cardenez “took the moment of opportunity, opened up the passenger door, and jumped out and ran,” Dyer added.
After one good Samaritan cut off Gonzales to allow Cardenas to escape, another passerby stayed with her while Gonzalez continued to drive off.
The pick-up sped off without the girl, but was spotted 40 minutes later by California Highway Patrol officer Dustin Dimmer near Saginaw Avenue and Ninth Street. Gonzalez, a validated Bulldog gang member, was taken into custody without a struggle. He was on parole for domestic violence and possession of a sawed-off shotgun, and now faces charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and false imprisonment.
“My thoughts go out to the family as they deal with the aftermath of this situation and they will be in all of our thoughts and our prayers,” said Captain Matt Bishop with the CHP.
Cardenez was described as “frightened” and “traumatized,” but is in good condition after being released from Community Regional Medical Center, where she reunited with her mother.
Dyer said that it is truly a miracle the kidnapped girl was found and praised the efforts of the Fresno residents who intervened.
“I want to say thank you to the citizens of Fresno and the good Samaritans,” Dyer said. “Today, they are heroes.”
Beth Warmerdam contributed to this report.