Baby-snatching suspect arrested

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VISTA, Calif. — A parolee who allegedly beat his girlfriend severely and fled with the couple’s 5-month-old son early Tuesday was arrested after an eight-hour manhunt.

Deputies investigating a reported domestic dispute shortly after 1:30 a.m. found the battered woman, whose name was not released, in a neighborhood off the 22000 block of State Route 76 near Pauma Valley, sheriff’s officials said.

The victim told investigators her boyfriend, 42-year-old Kenneth Wayne Welch, had attacked her during an argument as they sat with their son inside a parked vehicle in the area, not far from their home on the La Jolla Indian Reservation, Lt. James Bolwerk said.

parolee vista picThe badly hurt woman managed to escape and run off, after which Welch drove away with the child, also named Kenneth, Bolwerk said. The victim was taken by ambulance to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries to her head and face.

Authorities, meanwhile, issued a statewide child-abduction alert while trying to locate Welch, who was believed to be armed with a knife, a threat to the baby and possibly suicidal, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Several hours later, Welch’s sister, who lives in Oceanside, called the police to report that the suspect had dropped off the infant with her and then left, the lieutenant said. The child, who was unharmed, was taken into protective custody.

Shortly before 10 a.m., deputies spotted Welch driving through western Vista. Following a brief road and foot chase, they arrested him in the 1100 block of Marine View Drive, just east of South Melrose Drive, Bolwerk said.

“[Welch] was coming down the street really fast, hit the telephone pole and spun out of control,” said Peachiz DeLaCruz, who lives off Mar Vista Road and watched the pursuit.  “Cops were just everywhere. We were just freaking out.”

DeLaCruz runs a daycare nearby and was alone with several children when she heard the sirens and crunch of an accident.

“I was scared, because I had kids running down the driveway and they were like ‘oh I want to see!’” she said.

Welch was booked into the Vista Detention Facility on suspicion of attempted murder, assault, child endangerment, domestic violence, evading police and violating conditions of his parole. He was being held without bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

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