SANTA BARBARA COUNTY – January 11, 2012
At approximately 3:00 a.m. on January 8th, an alert Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputy spotted a car cruising through the residential neighborhood of Vandenberg Village, just north of Lompoc. According to Drew Sugars, SBSD Public Information Officer, the deputy observed the driver of the vehicle commit a traffic violation, and he proceeded to conduct a traffic stop.
As the deputy approached the driver of the vehicle, “he observed a teenage female in the front passenger seat,” Sugars reported to the media. The driver identified himself as Saul Padilla, 47, and when questioned about the identity of the female and where they were going in the early pre-dawn hour, Padilla explained that he was a relative of the girl and was “taking her to the store” as quoted by the deputy in his written incident report. The deputy, upon learning the girl’s name and home phone number, contacted her parents and learned that Padilla was unknown to the family.
At that time, Padilla was placed into custody on suspicion of kidnapping, and subsequent investigation by Sheriff’s detectives established that “Padilla and the female had been in contact over the internet for the prior two years, during which time Padilla posed as a 15-year-old boy,” Sugars detailed in a widely disseminated official statement to the media.
Padilla had remained in contact with the underage female He ultimately arranged to pick her up at her family home, to finally meet in person for the first time, just after midnight on January 8, 2012. When the female exited her home to meet with Padilla—expecting to meet a teenage boy—he physically accosted his victim and forced her into his vehicle. It was in his haste to depart the scene with his prospective victim that the arresting officer made the traffic stop. “The deputy was in the right place at the right time,” Sugars said, adding a cautionary comment that “when you’re on the Internet and you’re meeting somebody, they’re really shielded…you have to go into this cautiously and not assume people are telling the truth.”
Padilla was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of kidnapping and lewd acts with a child, and is currently held on $1,000,000 bail.
Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Detectives are urging anyone with information about Saul Padilla or his activities prior to this arrest to contact them via the Sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at (805) 681-4171.
Photos: courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail; Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department
keyt.com: Man Arrested for Kidnapping and Lewd Acts with Teenager
The Independent: Deputy Saves Kidnapped Girl