Trooper in "right place at right time," rescues abducted girl
February 10, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Audio recordings show how quick thinking by a Florida Highway Patrol Trooper led to the safe return of an abducted 3-year-old child.
Officials with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Madeline Mejia was abducted from her front yard in Apopka around 7 a.m. The agency later issued a statewide Amber Alert and notified law enforcement officials to be on the lookout for a black Honda Accord. Trooper Jessie Sunday believes he was in the right place at the right time Monday morning.
"We got some information that the vehicle, an occupant's phone in the vehicle, was being pinged at the 240-mile marker," he told reporter Katie Kaplan. "We were able to ping it several times down the interstate."
Trooper Sunday said the cell phone pinged near mile marker 211 around 11 a.m. It happened to be near where he was on patrol. He said he "looked up" and saw a vehicle that matched the description pass by in the opposite direction on I-10. The car was heading Westbound, just east of Tallahassee.
"We have a two-door Civic, a two-door Civic just passed me. I'm going to turn around," he can be heard saying in audio recordings of police traffic released by officials with FHP.
The vehicle's Texas license plate matched the one provided by FDLE.
"He made two lane changes on me and so then I just decided," he said, in an interview near mile marker 208 where he pulled the vehicle over. "I went and lit him up, right toward the bottom of the ramp."
Inside the vehicle were five people, two men and two women, as well as the missing child, he said. Trooper Sunday said the little girl was not in a car seat, but was sitting on the lap of someone in the back seat.
"She looked a little scared because of all the commotion," he recalled. "But once we got her away from that group of people, she seemed a little relieved."
On the agency's Facebook page, FDLE released a photo of the child moments after being pulled out of the car. She was wearing the same pink outfit that was described in the alert.
All four people inside the vehicle were detained. The investigation is being handled by FDLE, which has not released any further details. Trooper Sunday said all four occupants spoke Spanish. FHP said they may have been traveling to Mexico.