An 8-year-old girl abducted Monday evening from outside a Fresno apartment complex has been found safe and her suspected kidnapper is in custody, police said this morning. A statewide Amber Alert was issued overnight for Elisa Cardenas, who had last been seen wearing a light purple Winnie the Pooh sweater and blue jeans. At a news conference this morning, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Elisa is frightened and traumatized, but otherwise OK. “We beat the odds today,” Dyer said. “Because in many cases we don’t find the child alive.” Elisa was taken to Community Regional Medical Center for evaluation as a precaution. “I got to tell you, it was the highlight of my career seeing Elisa and her mom reunite in that hospital room,” Dyer said. Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, a man in a pickup truck pulled up in front of an apartment complex at 2751 E. Hammond Ave. near a group of children who were playing. The man approached a 6-year-old girl and Elisa, who started to walk with the man as the younger girl walked away, police said. Witnesses yelled at the children to get away from the man, who then grabbed Elisa and pushed her into the truck’s cab. Elisa’s mother hopped into a car and tried to chase the truck, but lost track of it, police said. The truck was described as a late 70s or early 80s Ford or Chevy pickup truck with a distinctive 6-inch white horizontal stripe on its sides. Sometime around 7:30 a.m. today, a good Samaritan who was aware of the Amber Alert spotted the suspect’s truck and aided in Elisa’s rescue by cutting off the driver once he saw Elisa stick her head up, Dyer said. “He realized right then and there he had the suspect,” Dyer said. Elisa opened the passenger door and jumped out of the truck near the Fresno airport. Dyer said the good Samaritan followed the truck and was able to provide a partial license plate number. Police soon closed in on the suspect. The driver was taken into custody without incident, CHP spokesman officer Rich Wetzel said. His name has not been released. Minutes before Elisa was abducted, Fresno police received a call about a separate incident in which a man matching the suspect’s description dropped his pants and exposed himself to two other young girls. Investigators are looking into whether the man in custody is connected to that case. The FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children both assisted in the statewide search. Fresno police this morning were searching isolated and secluded areas, including nearby hotels, motels, bus depots, train stations, schools and parks. A door-to-door search was carried out in the immediate area of the abduction. During the news conference, Dyer thanked the city of Fresno and the media for their help in bringing Elisa home. “I think all of us tonight can pat ourselves on the back and be thankful that Elisa is alive and well and we have the suspect in custody,” Dyer said. Fresno police have now taken over the investigation. Anyone with more information about the case should call the Fresno Police Department at (559) 621-7000.
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