Woman accused of stealing car with kids inside, fleeing for border faces kidnapping charge

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SAN DIEGO -- A woman accused of stealing a parked car with two young children inside and fleeing for the border on Monday is facing auto theft and attempted kidnapping charges.

Leslie Esparanza Saenz was arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday after police say she stole the car in Lincoln Park and fled.

The father of the 8-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy had parked his gold Hyundai outside a store on the 200 block of Euclid Avenue and went into the business by himself, leaving the vehicle unlocked and its engine running, according to San Diego police.

Moments later, Saenz got into the car and sped off with the children still inside, Officer Luis Roman said.

The 8-year-old had a cell phone, and called 911 according to police.

Officers searched for the stolen car and missing children until shortly before 2 p.m., when the Hyundai arrived at San Ysidro Port of Entry at the southern terminus of Interstate 5. There, federal agents who had been warned of the auto theft and kidnapping acted quickly to take Saenz into custody.

Authorities then reunited the children, who had suffered no injuries during the ordeal, with their father and returned his car to him, Roman said.

Saenz was originally due for an arraignment Wednesday, but she is now expected to appear in court for the first time on Thursday.

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