A witness who saw a man abduct a 3-year-old girl Monday in Mundelein and then drive away was sure the car’s license plate number started with a seven.
That detail — and a traffic ticket recently issued to the car’s driver — led to the arrest of a suspect, authorities announced Thursday.
Jose E. Reyes, 28, of the 4900 block of West North Avenue in Chicago, is charged with aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping and unlawful restraint, authorities said. He faces a 60-year prison term if convicted on the most serious of the charges.
More charges are possible pending the results of medical tests, Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther said.
Lake County Judge Joseph Salvi ordered Reyes, who recently moved from North Chicago, held in Lake County jail on $5 million bail.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim told the Daily Herald after the hearing. “I applaud the Mundelein Police Department for their swift action in apprehending the defendant.”
Reyes was arrested at his job in Libertyville late Wednesday night, Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Fred Day said during the bond hearing.
Police also seized Reyes’ black 2007 Hyundai Accent, which matched the description of the car police said was driven by the kidnapper.
The young victim was abducted about 5:30 p.m. Monday from the entrance of the apartment building on the 500 block of Deepwoods Drive, which is in the Deepwoods Apartment Complex. She was returned to the area about 30 minutes later.
Police believe she was chosen randomly, Guenther said.
The girl was with her 9-year-old sister outside their building when Reyes pulled up in the Hyundai, got out and offered the older girl a lollipop, Day said in court. Their mother had gone inside with their infant brother, authorities said.
The girl declined the lollipop and Reyes went back to his car, Day said. He returned moments later and gave the candy to the girl anyway, Day said.
Reyes then whispered something in Spanish to the 3-year-old, grabbed her and ran to his car, Day said. He buckled her into a passenger seat and drove off, Day said.
When the 9-year-old screamed for help, the mother ran to a window and saw Reyes put the girl in the car and drive off, Day said.
Police were called to the scene and interviewed the mother, the sister, and a witness. About 30 minutes later, police received a 911 call from a bystander who was with the 3-year-old in a parking lot in the apartment complex, authorities said.
The girl told police she was injured and bleeding, Day said. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was treated and tests were completed.
She now is with her family, Guenther said during a news conference Thursday.
The 9-year-old sister described the kidnapper as a Hispanic man in his 20s, with short, curly hair and a goatee, police said. Authorities said the artist rendering was a close match to Reyes.
But, it was the car that became the key to cracking the case, Guenther said. A resident of the apartment complex who had pointed a video camera at his car as a security measure captured images of Reyes’ Hyundai entering and leaving the area, Guenther said.
“It was quite a stroke of luck,” he said.
Investigators searched records of black Hyundai Accents with sevens in their plates, based on the witness statement. There were hundreds, Guenther said.
During the investigation, police discovered a traffic ticket recently had been issued to a black Hyundai driven by Reyes, Day said. Police found the car and Reyes at his workplace.
“In the end, this is just good, old-fashioned police work,” Guenther told the media.
The Cook County sheriff’s office, the Lake County state’s attorney’s office, the FBI and the Northern Illinois Crime Lab assisted with the investigation, Guenther said.
Following his arrest, Reyes refused to comply with a court order to supply DNA samples and other evidence. Salvi ordered Reyes to submit to the DNA tests Thursday.
Reyes is due back in court Oct. 10.
If Reyes is able to post the 10 percent required to bond out, he is not allowed to have contact with the victim, her family, anyone at the Deepwoods complex or anyone under the age of 18.
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