Police say they do not know why a bearded deaf-mute who helped supervise children at a church day-care center would kidnap at least two girls, one of whom was found in a dark chamber beneath the church more than a month after she disappeared.
"Right now we don't have a firm motive," Sacramento Police Sgt. Bob Burns said Tuesday after police arrested Kenneth Michel, 32, caretaker at the Elk Grove United Methodist Church, and booked him on suspicion of the kidnappings.The two girls were rescued after a man who said he always wanted to be a police officer and "always had this thing about license numbers" provided the number that led authorities to Michel.
Police said Jack Manzer, a 43-year-old assistant superintendent for a steel plant, saw a man carrying a screaming 6-year-old girl into a car while driving to work Monday morning, jotted down the license number and phoned police.
The call triggered a search by 70 police officers, sheriff's deputies and FBI agents, and within hours, authorities found two kidnapped girls, one of them Candi Talarico, who had been abducted June 4 while playing in an alley.
Police found Candi at the church in a 2-foot-high earthen chamber accessible only by a trap door from a crawl space above. In the 8-by-10 chamber they found a mattress, blankets, snacks, a light and small television set.
"We assume that she was there from day one," said Burns.
Burns said investigators would not question the girls until they are certain it will not cause further psychological trauma. Tests were taken at the hospital to determine whether the children were sexually molested, but the results are not available.
The city had been blanketed with posters with Candi's photograph, a composite drawing of her abductor and a description of the blue Ford in which she was spirited away. Her case was featured on the nationally syndicated "America's Most Wanted" television show.
As it turned out, the girl that Manzer saw screaming in a man's arms had escaped from the car.
But in the suspect's car, police said they found Meuy Han Saefong, a 5-year-old Laotian refugee, her hands and feet bound with duct tape, who had been kidnapped only a few hours before the rescue.
Authorities said both girls were examined at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento and released. They were healthy and apparently unharmed.