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Officers tracked footprints in Sierra snow near I-80 rest stop to find abducted Idaho teen

Posted at 8:49 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 19:00:13-04

RUPERT, Idaho — This article was originally written by Michael McGough with the Idaho Statesman.

Two men who were arrested in Northern California early Friday, accused of abducting and transporting a 14-year-old girl from her home in Idaho, were located using a combination of phone GPS and good, old-fashioned footprints, authorities said. The girl was found safe, and the men will face charges of kidnapping, authorities said.

The suspects, 18-year-old Sergio Anaya Alcantar and 35-year-old Carmelo Villanueva Galarza, were located near the Donner Summit rest area along Interstate 80 shortly after midnight Friday, the California Highway Patrol’s Truckee office said in a Facebook post, after the teenager was taken from her home in the rural Idaho town of Rupert, 45 miles east of Twin Falls, around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The CHP’s emergency alert center received a call from the Rupert Police Department in Idaho relaying that around 7 p.m., officers were notified that the teenage victim was being driven by the two men to California. The CHP also learned that one of the two suspects had an outstanding felony warrant for sexual assault of a 12-year-old.

“RPD believed the victim had been kidnapped and was in danger of being sexually assaulted or forced into human trafficking,” the CHP post said. Idaho authorities believed the suspects were heading southwest to Santa Rosa.

An Amber Alert was sent to the public around 7:40 p.m., and authorities began to use cellphone tracking information to track the suspects and the victim to the Truckee area.

Just after midnight, when CHP officers found the vehicle – a gray 2011 Chevrolet Malibu with Idaho license plates – near the rest stop, Galazar was in the vehicle’s driver seat, and his wife and three children were in the car with him. But Alcantar and the girl were missing, authorities said.

Officers investigated, and again used cellphone tracking, to discover that Alcantar had fled on foot with the victim and was hiding in the rest area.

Authorities followed footprints in the snow and located the victim and the suspect hiding behind a tree about 200 yards away from the rest area, the CHP post said.

Alcantar and Galazar were arrested and booked into the Nevada County jail in Nevada City, where they face charges related to kidnapping. Their bail is set at $500,000 each.

The 14-year-old girl has been placed into protective custody with child protective services, according to the CHP. She was not harmed.

Alerts had been issued in Idaho, as well as for seven counties in Northern California – Napa, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties – and many cell phones in the region with activated emergency alerts were notified around 9:30 p.m.