Johnnie Melendez, Jr., was first reported missing at 2:34 a.m. Sunday from the Sweetwater Inn at 2435 Sweetwater Road, National City, according to police Sgt. Mike Harlan. The CHP issued an Amber Alert for Melendez Sunday about 10:30 a.m. and named 27-year-old Gladys Suarez as the suspect.
The child was found unharmed at about 11:30 a.m. in Lancaster, in the Antelope Valley 45 miles north of Los Angeles, when Suarez saw the Amber Alert and contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff's station in Lancaster, Harlan said.
National City police detectives were on their way to Lancaster to arrest Suarez on charges of kidnapping.
“The boy was raised by his father and Suarez was visiting from Pennsylvania and did not have legal custody of Melendez,'' Harlan told City News Service. “She came into town Saturday to meet her son, who she had not seen since around the time she gave birth to him.''
The 5-year-old Melendez was first reported missing when his father, Johnnie Melendez, Sr., returned to the hotel room at the Sweetwater Inn and discovered Suarez, his son, and all of their belongings were gone, Harlan said. The elder Melendez searched for about an hour before alerting authorities that Suarez had kidnapped his son.
National City police officers determined that a man had given Suarez and the kidnapped boy a ride to the Shell gas station on Leucadia Boulevard in Encinitas, Harlan said.
“Suarez made a statement to the father via cellular phone to the effect of, `you're never going to see him again,' and if she could not have the child than no one can,'' Harlan said.