A 40-year-old woman was arrested Sunday after she allegedly tried to kidnap a 4-year-old boy in Winton.
Merced County sheriff's investigators say it's still unknown what motivated the woman, who is a stranger to the boy and his family. Investigators say the quick reactions of witnesses saved the boy.
The alleged crime was reported around 4:30 p.m. in the 6400 block of Cypress Avenue in Winton, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
The boy was riding his bike when the suspect, Winton resident Glenda Smith, drove up in a van, stopped the vehicle and grabbed him. Witnesses said Smith cupped her hand around the boy's mouth and dragged him kicking and screaming into the van, MacKenzie said.
Never miss a local story.
Witnesses immediately called the sheriff's department, MacKenzie said, and one of the witnesses was able to follow the woman and relay her whereabouts to law enforcement.
The boy's mother, who wasn't present during the kidnapping, had also called law enforcement after realizing her son was missing. Deputies were dispatched and other regional law enforcement agencies were notified about the kidnapping.
As Atwater police were dispatching their officers, Smith pulled into the department's headquarters at 750 Bellevue Road. Police went to the van and took Smith into custody. The boy was recovered unharmed.
Under questioning, Smith told detectives she saw the boy was alone, and had pulled over to take him to the police department because she was concerned. Detectives believe, however, Smith had intended all along to kidnap the boy -- and only pulled into the police department's parking lot after realizing she was being followed and couldn't escape.
Smith was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of attempted kidnapping.
Smith will likely face child endangerment charges because she was driving erratically, weaving on the road and passing through stop signs, MacKenzie said. In addition, the boy was in the front seat without being properly restrained -- and there were two large bulldogs and another large dog of unknown breed inside the van.
Smith is known to law enforcement and was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance on Feb. 26.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.