SANTA CLARITA (CNS / FOX 11) - The Sheriff's Department on Saturday released new details into the circumstances surrounding the reported kidnapping of a 2-year-old girl allegedly taken at knifepoint by a 40-year-old man from a mobile home park in the Sleepy Valley area of Santa Clarita.
The suspect, Thomas Ray Dillingham, 40, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to one count each of kidnapping a victim under 14, with an allegation that he used the knife during the crime, and assault with a deadly weapon.
Dillingham, a parolee with an extensive criminal history, allegedly rushed into a residence in the 12700 block of Sierra Highway shortly after 8:30 p.m. Monday, armed with a kitchen knife, and demanded the child, who was
sitting on her grandfather's lap, reportedly yelling "I'm taking the baby," according to Lt. Darren Harris of the Sheriff's Information Bureau.
The grandfather had never see the suspect before and tried to resist his efforts, Harris said.
Dillingham allegedly attempted to stab the grandfather during the abduction and fled from the trailer, Harris said.
The grandfather then pounded on the door of his neighbor, Carlos Rodriguez, 18, who called 911 and the information was relayed to the sheriff's Santa Clarita Valley station.
"He (Rodriguez) stayed on the phone and provided valuable and detailed information throughout the ordeal,'' Harris said.
A woman in the mobile home park assisted the grandfather in the search for the kidnapped child, he said. The woman was able to find out from another neighbor where the suspect lived.
Sheriff's officials said the suspect refused to return the 2-year-old girl, after her grandfather followed him to his trailer in the same mobile home park.
The child was rescued shortly after deputies arrived on the scene and took Dillingham into custody. The girl was unhurt and returned to her family, after being taken to a hospital for evaluation.
During a news conference Friday at the sheriff's Santa Clarita Valley station, Capt. Roosevelt Johnson presented Rodriguez with a sheriff's certificate recognizing his involvement.
"There is no doubt, based on the suspect's violent past and unstable behavior, that moments matter and these residents helping deputies may have just saved a life by acting quickly,'' Johnson said.
Dillingham is due back in a San Fernando courtroom April 12, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.
If convicted of the charges, Dillingham could face up to 30 years in state prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.
"It's the partnership between the community and law enforcement that really aided in the rescue of this little girl because either one on their own might not have worked," said Shiriley Miller, the Public Information Officer for Santa Clarita Sheriffs Station. "We need that kind of relationship."