Chandler police find girl, 4, based on California tip

Jim Walsh
The Arizona Republic
May 13, 2004 12:00 AM

CHANDLER – Police recovered a 4-year-old girl Tuesday night who has been
missing since 2001 in a custody dispute.

Acting on a tip from California, Chandler police arrested Nicole Maria
Valenzuela, 31, the girl’s mother, on a warrant from Downey, Calif.,
charging her with parental child abduction, said Detective Robert
Krautheim, a Chandler police spokesman.

The girl was in good condition, he said, and was to be reunited Wednesday
with her father, Jesus Valenzuela.

The interstate child custody dispute started when Jesus Valenzuela was
awarded joint custody of the girl and her mother fled from Downey, a Los
Angeles suburb, said Sgt. Jeff Calhoun, a Downey police spokesman. “The
main concern is to get the child back to an environment where she’s with
both parents,” he said, but Nicole will now face a potential prison
sentence.

Nicole changed her identity, used aliases and took the girl to several
Western states until a Downey police detective got a tip and asked
Chandler police for help, Krautheim said.

The girl had been listed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children’s Web site.

Although abductions involving strangers get the most publicity, most of
the 4,500 cases in the center’s data bank involve runaways and family
member abductions, said Ben Ermini, director of the center’s missing
children division.

He said 55 percent of the center’s caseload involves family member
abductions.

“There’s a myth that when a child is abducted by a non-custodial parent,
they’re OK,” Ermini said. “There are some real difficult times for a
child when they’re on the run.”

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press

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