Amber Alert Finds Missing Washington Girl Near Fallon

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A 2-year-old girl who was taken by her father from her mother in Washington state was found safe in northern Nevada Wednesday and her father arrested on charges of assault and custodial interference.

Ernesto Cuanas, 31, and his daughter Crystal Cuanas, had been the target of a multistate search since he reportedly took her on Tuesday in violation of a protective court order in Walla Walla County, Wash.

The two were found after "an alert citizen" spotted them at a thrift store shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday in Fallon about 60 miles east of Reno, Fallon police Lt. Frank Shyne said.

The girl appeared to be unhurt but was being examined as a precaution at Churchill County Community Hospital Wednesday afternoon, Shyne said.

The Walla Walla County sheriff's office said in a statement Tuesday that Ernesto Cuanas was reportedly despondent, with fresh slash marks on his arms, and that it was possible the little girl had a broken arm.

"I saw the report that she had a broken arm but the report I got from the field officer was she was in good spirits, looked healthy and was not complaining of any pain," Shyne told The Associated Press.

The father also was being examined at a local hospital because he complained of shoulder pain, Shyne said.

Authorities issued a statewide Amber Alert in Nevada after they were able to trace a call that Cuanas made Wednesday morning from Winnemucca about 125 miles northeast of Fallon on Interstate 80, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Rocky Gonzalez said.

The patrol received several calls after the alert from people who thought they had spotted the pair, he told KELK Radio in Elko. The little girl had last been seen wearing black pants and a shirt with a "Tweetie Bird" figure.

Later, a woman who had heard the alert on the radio thought she saw the suspect entering a thrift store in Fallon and telephoned local police, Shyne said.

"Our officers arrived just as he was backing up (his truck) and were able to ascertain it was him," he said.

Cuanas surrendered without incident, Shyne said. He said he did not believe the suspect had any weapons.

Fallon police initially arrested Cuanas on a charge of driving with a revoked license and took him into custody, Shyne said.

He subsequently was booked into the Churchill County jail on a warrant issued from Walla Walla County for his arrest on charges of first-degree custodial interference and fourth-degree assault.

He was being held in lieu of a $15,000 bond. It was not immediately clear who had been the victim of the alleged assault.

The Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office said in an earlier statement that as the truck left the child's home Tuesday afternoon, it collided with another vehicle and the little girl was seen to be thrown from the truck's seat.

In a later phone call to the girl's mother, Maria Soto, the father reportedly said he believed the child had a broken arm.

Cuanas reportedly violated a protection order and a no-contact order to take the child, the sheriff's office in Washington said.

The alert system is named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and killed in Arlington, Texas. It is in use in 47 states. The other states - Alaska, Hawaii and North Carolina - are close to fully implementing the system, said Deborah Daniels, the assistant U.S. attorney general overseeing the national alert program.


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