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Teen safe, found in Washington Co. after Ogden Amber Alert

Published: Saturday, Jan. 17 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

OGDEN — Maria Guardoda breathed a sigh of relief when she heard that her 14-year-old daughter was found safe.

"Gracias!" she told reporters at her doorstep who broke the news to her. Translating for his mother, Christopher Santelices said she "can't believe it."

Reyna Elizabeth Santelices was found just hours after police here issued an Amber Alert for the girl reported missing just after midnight Friday. The woman believed to have abducted her, 22-year-old Ana Avalos, was taken into custody without incident about 7:30 a.m. in southern Utah.

Trucker Kerry Hammond had just made a delivery in Cedar City when he heard the Amber Alert over the radio.

"About five or six seconds later the car passed me, and I called 911," the South Jordan man told the Deseret News.

Washington City police stopped Avalos' car on I-15. Reyna is in good condition and is currently in state protective custody while Ogden police travel to St. George to retrieve her. Avalos was being detained at the Purgatory Jail on investigation of kidnapping and is expected to be booked into the Weber County Jail late Friday or Saturday.

When Reyna disappeared with Avalos police said she left behind a note.

"She said she needs to make her own decisions, it may not be the right decisions, she loves them all but she's got to make her own mistakes in life and she wants to start her life on her own with this individual," Ogden Police Lt. Scott Conley said.

Police described the pair's relationship as "emotional," but said they were investigating if the girl had been abused.

"Whether she went on her own is a moot point," Ogden Police Lt. Tony Fox said Friday. "She's only 14."

Avalos had lived with Reyna and her family for about four months after losing her job. Guardoda said they had taken her in.

"She is a very bad woman," Guardoda said.

Asked about her daughter leaving with Avalos, Guardoda said: "We didn't think she would do that."

Police said the Amber Alert worked exactly as it was supposed to. The alert was broadcast on radio, TV, electronic billboards, road signs, Web sites and text messages.

"This is a textbook example of how this system can work to protect our kids," Conley said.

Hammond was modest about helping recover Reyna.

"I'm just doing what we're all supposed to be doing," he said. "I hope she gets home OK."


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com

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