Car stolen with toddler inside found in Cathedral City field

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. — Authorities say a convicted felon, already on probation for an earlier vehicle theft conviction, was arrested after allegedly stealing a car with a young child inside it late Sunday evening, Oct. 11. Although the child was initially described as being one-year-old, the victim’s mother, Daisy Rios, later confirmed the kidnapped child was actually two-years-old.

The car theft and kidnapping, which happened while a father was retrieving a shopping cart at a Dollar General parking lot in the 13700 block of Palm Dr. in Desert Hot Springs, led to a massive, hours-long, multi-agency search and eventual arrest of a woman alleged to have stolen the vehicle with the toddler inside it.

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Desert Hot Springs police officers were alerted to the crisis around 10:15 p.m., after receiving a frantic 911 call from the victim’s father reporting a vehicle theft had just occurred from the Dollar General parking lot.

Desert Hot Springs Deputy Chief Steven Shaw later reported that the father told emergency dispatchers and responding officials he had driven to the Dollar General store with two of his children, ages three and two. After parking his car, the father ran into the store with his three-year-old to grab a shopping cart so he could get his other child from his car and go back into the store to do his shopping.

According to Shaw, the father left his vehicle running with the keys still in the ignition while retrieving the cart.

As the father was returning to his car he saw a woman get into his gray, 2010 Toyota Corolla and drive away with his young son, Anthony Chacon, still buckled into his car seat in the back of the vehicle. 

The father described the woman as having red-hair, standing 5-foot-6, and weighing approximately 150 lbs., and said she was wearing a black sweater, gray pants and a bandanna. She was last seen driving out of the parking lot in the stolen car and heading south from the location on Palm Dr.

Anthony Chacon, 2, is seen with his family after a joyful reunion, following a car theft that happened when the toddler’s father momentarily left the victim inside a car while retrieving a shopping cart from inside a Desert Hot Springs Dollar General store. Parent Security photo

While numerous Desert Hot Springs PD officers and investigators converged on the location and began searching for the vehicle and child, officers and deputies from Palm Springs PD, Cathedral City PD, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol rushed to the area to assist in the desperate search effort.

While an AMBER alert was issued seeking assistance and information from of the public, a CHP helicopter was deployed to the area to assist in the ongoing search.

Despite a thorough and intensive search of the surrounding areas, neither the stolen car or missing child were immediately located.

As cited by Parent Security, after learning about the car theft and kidnapping the victim’s mother told various news organizations “I actually fainted and was having seizers after seizers,”

“I thought I was never going to see him again,” Rios said, describing the horrifying moment she found out her son was missing.

About three hours later, as the region-wide search was continuing, a couple walking in the 67500 block of Ramon Rd. in Cathedral City heard a child crying and spotted a car parked in an open field. Recognizing the car from the earlier AMBER alert, the couple cautiously approached the vehicle and saw it was only occupied by the missing child. 

Seeing nobody else around the vehicle, the pair grabbed the pajama-clad child and “made a run for it”, rushing the toddler to a nearby 7-Eleven store where they called 911, Rios later described.

Cathedral City Police and Fire personnel, along with Desert Hot Springs PD officers and detectives responded to the convenience store where they found Anthony safe and unharmed. 

Calling the couple “heroes”, the thankful mother later said, “They even stayed with my baby until police and the firefighters came.”

According to Rios, when she got to the convenience store and was reunited with Anthony, “He just wanted to hug me and didn’t want to let go.”

Anthony Chacon, 2, of Desert Hot Springs, was found safe and unharmed after a woman stole a vehicle while the toddler was buckled into his car seat in the back of the car. Daisy Rios/Parent Security photos

About 30 minutes after the child was found, and while officials were searching for fingerprints and other evidence inside the recovered stolen vehicle, Palm Springs police officers patrolling the area of Sarah St. and Agua Caliente Trail near the city’s border spotted a woman matching the suspect’s description and detained her for further investigation.

Based on their subsequent investigation and the father’s positive identification, DHSPD officers and investigators arrested the woman, Yadira Flores, 31, of Desert Hot Springs. She was later booked into John Benoit Detention Center in Indio on suspicion of kidnapping, auto theft with prior auto theft convictions, willful cruelty to a child, and felony probation violation.

Online jail records indicate Flores remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail or bond and is scheduled to be arraigned at Indio’s Larsen Justice Center Oct. 15.

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After Flores’ arrest and Anthony’s safe recovery, Shaw said “There’s really nothing that indicates what led up to it,” adding that the car theft “was completely a crime of opportunity.”

Shaw also used the opportunity to admonish area residents, “Again, just a reminder for folks, that even for a few seconds, especially with kids in the car, lock your cars, don’t leave them running.”

“Take that extra time to take your children out even if you’re just running into the store for a minute,” Shaw continued; adding, “Just don’t take that chance.”

Anyone with additional information regarding this investigation is encouraged to immediately  contact DHSPD Sgt. Christopher Saucier or the department’s Watch Commander at (760) 329-2904 ext. 382. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-STOP.


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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

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