A parent’s worst nightmare averted

I’m writing as a major thank you to an Elma family. On Sunday I was visiting my friend Drew Hooper and his sons in Elma and I had my two children (James, 4, and Taylor, 3) with me. We decided to take our children to the Tenth Street Park and baseball field so they could play.

We were right next to the playground equipment constantly watching the children, as the park was packed, and doing a frequent head count. The children knew exactly where we were in case they needed anything.

After maybe three minutes between head counts, we noticed that my daughter, Taylor, was missing. Drew took his kids into the baseball park to search while James and I searched the parking lot.

Nearing a dead end with a creek and some teenage girls in the water, I was about to turn around. Before I did, with panic now setting in, I frantically shouted, “Taylor!” One of the teenage girls’ names was Taylor and she shouted that she was right there. In that brief moment I saw a tiny glimpse of my daughter Taylor vanishing down the alley beyond the creek being coaxed along by a man.

Having no way to cross the creek with my son to get to my daughter and her abductor, another teenager, T’ana, ran to go get her. Upon reaching the man, he told T’ana that my daughter was his and he was taking her home. T’ana thought quickly and said, “No she isn’t. She’s my sister!” She then snatched up my daughter and ran back to me.

James and I were swiftly helped across the creek by the remaining girls. When T’ana let Taylor down as they neared, Taylor ran to me and jumped into my arms and wouldn’t let go for about 15 minutes.

When I went to look for the man, he was long gone.

If the teenage Taylor hadn’t shouted back to me as I called for my daughter, I would have already turned around and never seen my daughter disappear down the alley.

The suspicious man was a Hispanic male in his late 20s, clean shaven, short hair, wearing a purple plaid shirt and dark Levi jeans.

The Elma Police Department has called me to inform me that last evening an older gentleman reported he saw a man fitting that description asking Taylor if she knew where she lived. My question is if he wanted to know where she lived, and she was at the park, why didn’t he ask people at the park if that was their daughter rather than lure her further and further from the park and then tell T’ana that my child was his daughter and he was taking her home? The story doesn’t add up.

Thank you to Jason and Jenny Dick for raising such courageous and selfless children. And a special thank you to T’ana and Taylor. Without the help of you brave young girls, my daughter may not be alive this morning. You two are true heroes. You did not think of yourselves. You sprang into action when you saw a child in danger. The laughter, the pitter patter of feet, and the sound of my kids playing make-believe, has never been sweeter than it is today, thanks to you.

Sean Sturgill

Long Beach