San Diego

Girl, 8, Testifies Against Encanto Kidnapping Suspect

A woman charged with stealing a car and kidnapping two young children who were inside was bound over for trial Thursday.

One of the children who was kidnapped testified at the preliminary hearing for Leslie Saenz that she threatened to crash the car into a freeway wall if the child didn’t stop banging on the car window.

The 8-year-old girl told prosecutors she was banging “to get people’s attention so they would call the police.”

Soon the girl stopped seeing cars, and that’s when she said she got out her phone and called 911.

The girl and her little brother were sitting in their father's car when Saenz allegedly jumped in the driver’s seat. The father had left the engine running to keep the air conditioning on while he ran into an Encanto beauty supply store.

A witness honked his horn to alert the single father to what just happened. He raced outside and saw his car being driven away.

The father gave chase on foot, but according to the prosecutor Saenz ran a red light, started driving erratically and took off on the freeway.

While on the phone with a dispatcher, the little girl said she didn't know where she was exactly but that she was seeing freeway signs that said Mexico.

“The lady threatened to drive into the freeway wall again,” explained the girl.

“How did that make you feel?” asked the prosecutor.

“Very scared. So, I gave her the phone,” she said.

The dispatcher was able to ping the location of the girl's cellphone and officers gathered they were on the freeway headed south.

Saenz and the kids made it all the way to the San Ysidro border crossing before they were spotted by police.

The children's father told NBC 7 in a previous interview that she made it to the secondary inspection area where officers could see the children in the back seat mouthing "help me."

Border Patrol agents removed Saenz and police officers and deputies took her into custody.

After both sides presented their cases at the preliminary hearing, a judge ruled there’s enough evidence against Saenz to send her to trial on September 7.

“The people believe that evidence showed the defendant looked into the car, got in the car and drove away. That she was obviously speaking to the children, that the children spoke to her and that she knew they were in the car,” said the prosecutor.

Saenz remains in jail with no bail. Her attorney requested the judge set bail but the judge upheld the no-bail ruling of a previous judge, maintaining that Saenz is a threat to the community and a flight risk.

Saenz is charged with two counts of kidnapping children under age 14, two counts of child abduction, one count of attempting to dissuade a witness from reporting a crime, one count of making criminal threats and one count of vehicle theft.

If found guilty on all charges, she could face up to 28 years in prison.

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