Woman who stole car with kids inside sentenced to prison

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Leslie Esparanza Saenz, 27, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for stealing a car with two children inside.

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A woman convicted of stealing a car with two kids inside and trying to drive into Mexico was sentenced Monday to 13 years in prison.

Leslie Esparanza Saenz, 27, was convicted of kidnapping, child abduction and vehicle theft.

On April 9, a father took his son and daughter, ages 3 and 8, to strip mall  in Lincoln Park. The father went inside and left the kids in the car with the motor running and the doors unlocked. A woman jumped in the car and drove off. As they headed south on Interstate 5, the alert girl said she saw signs for Mexico and started banging on the window. She pulled out her cell phone and called 911. Police picked up the phone’s signal, spotted the car at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and arrested Saenz with the two kids unharmed.

Before sentencing Monday, Saenz's family plead with the judge to have mercy on her. They said that she was gifted young woman who lost her way when she became addicted to drugs. They said that Saenz suffered  from mental illness and the begged the judge to give her a lenient sentence.

If Saenz serves her full sentence, she will be 40 years old when she is released from prison.

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