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Child Taken in Stolen Auto Reunited with Family

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MERCED – The parents of a three year old girl who was taken with their car as it was stolen were relieved to have their child back home Monday night.

The incident happened at about 6:45pm on the 400 block of West 27th Street, as Melissa Foster was preparing to take her Toyota Corolla to a car wash.

“I took one second just to run back to my porch to grab my purse,” Foster said. “In that split second, my mom saw the car door open and close.”

Someone had jumped into the car and began driving off with it. Melissa’s three year old daughter Jessie Sanchez, or “JJ” as she is affectionately called, was still inside. Melissa chased after the car on foot for two blocks before the vehicle was able to get away.

She believed whoever took her car and her daughter had been watching and waiting for her.

Police searched the surrounding neighborhood for any sign of the the stolen vehicle and the child.

“Commonly when someone steals a car and finds a child inside they (the suspect) will usually abandon the car within three or four blocks,” said Captain Jay Struble with the Merced Police Department. “Unfortunately this was not the case here.”

As time continued to pass with no sign of the car or the child, authorities issued an Amber Alert. Photos of the car and child were posted and shared to social media sites to help the word spread.

At about 8:45pm, the California Highway Patrol received a call from a citizen saying they saw the vehicle parked at a Chevron in Chowchilla. Authorities responded and found the vehicle abandoned with the child inside. Officers had to force entry into the vehicle to gain access, but found the child was unharmed and uninjured.

Detectives with the Merced Police Department, officers with Chowchilla Police and California Highway Patrol, as well as a K-9 from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office searched the area for any signs of a suspect. Monday night there was no word of an arrest.

Captain Struble said investigators were looking at surveillance video from the area, but they can only make out what appeared to be a male figure.

Jessie was brought home and reunited with her family in Merced shortly before 9:30pm. To brighten her spirits, Officer Rogelio Rodriguez bought her lollipops to enjoy on the drive home.

“She was very excited to see her mom and dad when she got back.”

The parents expressed their gratitude for the authorities involved in searching for little Jessie, and thankful for the public and Amber Alert system that made everything in this incident work out.

“Your mind is just a fog in that moment,” the child’s mother said of the two hours waiting while police searched for the girl. “I know she’s so strong and so brave.”

Carlos Rodriguez is an Emmy Award winning photojournalist specializing in public safety and natural disasters. His passion for local news stems from a deep commitment to his community, with a selfless mission to inform the citizens of the valley. As he worked on assignment for 19 days at the devastating Camp Fire in Paradise, California, he spent most of his time helping survivors contact their loved ones to let them know they were ok. Carlos is a veteran of Univision, FOX, and Telemundo TV stations and a native of Modesto, California.

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Homicide Investigated Near Tracy

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – Authorities investigated the fatal shooting of a man Monday night just outside of the City of Tracy.

Shortly before 10:00pm Monday, deputies received a call of gunfire near the 26000 block of Lammers Road. Arriving deputies found a man who had been shot. The victim was identified as 58-year-old Eric Almason. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.

There was no available suspect information Tuesday, and the investigation was ongoing.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office at (209) 446-4800 or Crime Stoppers at (209) 946-0600 where callers can remain anonymous.

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Several in Custody After Stolen Car Pursuit

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MODESTO – Authorities detained several occupants of a stolen vehicle Monday night that ended in South Modesto.

At about 9:00pm authorities located a vehicle that had been reported stolen near Hatch Road and Richland Avenue. A brief pursuit took place but was called off after the vehicle turned onto Dallas Street from West Hatch Road.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff Air Support Unit was able to follow the vehicle from above as it traveled west to the end of Glenn Avenue. The car was then parked on Imperial Avenue and the occupants attempted to walk away.

Stanislaus Sheriff Deputies and Ceres Police Officers set up a perimeter in the neighborhood and quickly detained two passengers. The driver was taken into custody a short time later in the backyard of a home.

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Robbery Reported at Sandwich Shop

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MODESTO – Police responded to a report of a robbery at a local sandwich shop late Monday afternoon.

At about 6:30pm officers with the Modesto Police Department responded to a report of an armed robbery at a Subway sandwich shop near the area of Floyd and Roselle Avenues. Early reports indicate the suspect took the register at gunpoint and fled the area.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the Modesto Police Department at (209) 572-9500 or Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 where callers can remain anonymous.

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