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Child Taken in Stolen Auto Reunited with Family

Carlos Rodriguez

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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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Passengers Walk Away From Plane Crash in Lodi

Gaby Muro

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Photo: San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office

LODI – Two passengers of an airplane that crashed during a training flight walked away without injuries Wednesday afternoon.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office received calls to their dispatch center at about 12:30pm reporting the plane crash. The incident happened near the 16000 block of North Fox Road in Lodi.

Authorities said a Cessna 150 with two occupants took off from Lodi Wednesday morning and were headed to the Linden area for training. At about 3,000 feet the plane began experiencing mechanical issues, resulting in a hard landing.

Authorities say the investigation into the crash is ongoing.

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High School Teacher Arrested

Gaby Muro

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MODESTO – A high school teacher was arrested Monday after a police investigation revealed he had an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Patrick Mester was charged with annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. He was arrested by Modesto Police Special Victims Unit Detectives.

Mester was employed with the Modesto City Schools District since the 2003-2004 school year. He taught music and band at Enochs High School since the 2007-2008 school year.

Mester’s ability to visit school grounds and have contact with students was revoked by the district, authorities said.

Police are asking anyone with information regarding this case to contact Detective Garza at garzaj@modestopd.com or (209) 572-9564.

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Police Investigate Early Evening Shooting

Gaby Muro

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STOCKTON – Two victims with gunshot wounds arrived at a local hospital early Monday evening prompting an investigation.

At about 7:30pm, authorities received a report of gunfire on the 300 block of East Oak Street, between North San Joaquin and North Sutter Streets. Early indications suggest the victims arrived by private vehicle at a hospital.

Shortly before 8:00pm, a report was made of another victim arriving at a hospital.

Police responded to the area to gather evidence and investigate. No further details were available at time of publication.

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