Police: Woman arrested after stealing car with kids inside, trying to cross border into Mexico

Posted at 4:13 PM, Apr 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-10 20:14:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A woman was arrested Monday afternoon after police say she stole a vehicle with two children inside.

Police say Rodney Cole left his 3-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter in his car with the engine and air conditioner running around noon on the 200 block of Euclid Avenue.

After he went into a business, a witness reported seeing a woman, later identified as Leslie Saenz, get into the car and drive away with the children inside.

Monday night Cole explained the terrifying ordeal to 10News.

His 8-year-old daughter, Malaiha, told police she was able to call the police and tell dispatchers that she and her brother Jackson had been kidnapped. 

"They said, '911 whats your emergency?' and I said, 'me and my little brother got kidnapped,'" Malaiha said. "and (police) said, 'where are you and what can you see?' and I said, 'signs for the Mexico border.'"

"(The woman) tried to take the phone away from me but I moved away from her, and she said, 'give it to me, or I’m going to drive in circles and take this car and crash into the freeway wall.'"

That's when she gave the phone to the woman, but the police acted quickly.  Roughly 30 minutes later after the car was stolen, Border Patrol detained the woman as she was trying to cross the border into Mexico.  

Police have since taken Saenz into custody.

Cole told 10News he bought the phone for the kids a few months ago, but it's not an activated line. He taught Malaiha how to call 911 on the phone, in case of emergencies. 

"I'm very proud of her," he said.