Three people are in custody, facing charges of kidnapping for what a friend calls a misunderstanding but what authorities say was a dispute over money.
San Diego County sheriff’s officials say Joseph Lawrence Smith, armed with a baseball bat, forced his way into his ex-girlfriend’s home in the 200 block of E. Dougherty Street in Fallbrook Monday around 5:10 p.m.
Inside the home, a babysitter was taking care of the ex-girlfriend’s 3-year-old child, whom Smith allegedly kidnapped by force.
Officials say Smith threw the toddler over his shoulder and ran out of the house to a vehicle waiting outside. When the babysitter tried to stop him, Smith threw her to the ground, causing minor injuries, she told investigators.
Ten minutes later, Smith returned the child to her mother at her work, just as deputies were responding to the babysitter's report, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
“He looks like this crazy, mean, horrible person but he’s not that person at all,” said the child's mother, Julia Rubinger.
Rubinger hasn't spoken with Smith since his arrest but she believes he saw something he didn’t like going on at the babysitter’s home and was trying to protect the child.
“He could’ve done it in a completely different way,” she said. “He really should have. He really should have thought it through but he didn’t.”
However, detectives tell NBC 7 that they believe Smith took the child in retaliation over a financial dispute.
Officials say it appears the child's mother may have let a former roommate come and pick up some personal belongings that Smith was holding onto until a loan was repaid.
Smith, 22, was arrested on charges of kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and burglary. He also had a no bail warrant from a theft in 2010.
The toddler was uninjured, and the babysitter was treated and released from Fallbrook Hospital.
Rubinger said her daughter doesn't appear to be affected. She was “totally fine,” Rubinger said.
“She wasn’t scared. That’s daddy to her. It wasn’t like it was some random person that she doesn’t know,” Rubinger said.
However, Smith is not the child's biological father or legal guardian. The mother admits the situation is complicated.
Smith fled the scene in the vehicle with two women – later identified as Breanna Pauline Roskop and Taylor Hood, authorities say.
On Tuesday, investigators tracked the suspects to Hood’s residence in the 200 block of Wonsan Drive in the Camp Pendleton De Luz housing complex. Hood is related to an active-duty Marine who is not involved in the crime, authorities say.
Smith, Hood and Roskop were taken into custody with the help of NCIS and the USMC Criminal Investigations Division. Sheriff's officials say they were booked into the Vista Detention Facility on charges related to kidnapping, conspiracy, burglary and assault.