Dramatic dashcam footage shows Florida cops saving a kidnapped three-year-old girl and arresting her mother, 18, for ‘trying to take her to Texas because her father refused to let her see her’
- Video shows police arresting Tania Duarte, 18, and her boyfriend Kevin Olmeda-Velias, 19 when Madeline Mejia was found in the car they were traveling in
- The three-year-old girl’s mother and her boyfriend were arrested by police in Florida on charges of interference with child custody
- Two other unnamed suspects were arrested but released to ICE
- Madeline’s dad had initially told police his daughter was snatched by strangers
- Lester has since admitted he knew Madeline had been taken by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, and made the first story up so police would help find her
- No charges have been filed against Lester but authorities are investigating
The dramatic moment police discovered missing Madeline Mejia when they pulled over a car on the highway has been revealed in a video released by Florida cops.
The three-year-old girl’s mom, Tania Duarte, 18, was arrested in Tallahassee along with her boyfriend Kevin Olmeda-Velias, 19, and two unnamed suspects.
Duarte, from Houston, said had been staying with the girl’s dad Lester Mejia and his family in Apopka and told him she wanted to take her back to Houston, Tallahassee.com reported.
She is reported to have taken the child when he refused to let Madeline go to Texas with her.
An Amber Alert was issued for Madeline on Monday after Lester claimed she was snatched from his driveway in Apopka by people he did not recognize. It later emerged that he fabricated the claims because cops refused to act when he initially called 911 and said she had been taken by her mom.
Madeline with her father Lester after they were reunited on Monday (left). He has since admitted he knew she had been taken by her 18-year-old mother Tania (right)
Video captured on Tuesday shows Duarte, who did not have legal custody of the child, being led from the car with her hands in the air after the car she was traveling in with the three other suspects and her daughter was pulled over.
Madeline is seen being pulled out of the car and carried away by a cop.
Duarte and Olmeda-Velias were booked on charges of interference with child custody and the two other unnamed men were released to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Duarte and Olmeda-Velias appeared in court on Tuesday.
During their first court appearance Tuesday, Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens Jr. ordered them to be held without bond until they were transported to Orange County, according to Tallahassee.com.
‘The mother knew the father had full custody of the child,’ court records state.
The girl’s father told police that his daughter had been snatched from the driveway of their home in Apopka
‘The mother told the father earlier in the week that she wanted to take the child to Texas, and the father refused to let the child go. [She] waited for the father to go to work and she had her boyfriend pick her and [her] daughter up to take her to Texas.’
When the four suspects were arrested on Monday, Lester initially said he had no idea why they took his daughter.
On Tuesday, however, Apopka Police Department revealed Lester had made the story up.
Lester had phoned 911 but was told by the dispatcher that there was no crime to investigate because the girl was with his mother. He went on to make up the abduction story to get their attention.
‘Mr. Mejia was scared he would not see his daughter again so he provided the abduction story in hopes it would assist in recovering his daughter,’ a police statement on Wednesday read.
An Amber Alert was issued by police after her father Lester called 911 to say she had been kidnapped on Monday morning
‘Although Mr. Mejia was not forthcoming with the information he provided to the Apopka Police Department he did have lawful custody of his daughter and Ms. Duarte unlawfully removed Madeline from his custody,’ police said.
‘The Apopka Police Department continues to investigate this matter, and is thankful that Madeline was found safe and returned to Mr. Mejia.’
After the Amber Alert was issued for Madeline police mobilized a Cessna plane to patrol the highways, which eventually found the kidnappers’ black Honda almost 250 miles from Madeline’s home in a little under six hours. They notified cops on the ground who then surrounded the vehicle and arrested the girl’s mother, boyfriend, and the two other men on the side of the road.
No charges have been brought against Lester, but authorities say they are still investigating.