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Girl kidnapped 7 years ago found in Ariz.

July 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A girl kidnapped from Norwalk seven years ago is now in protective custody after being found in Phoenix, Ariz.Amber Nicklas, now 7 years old, was brought back to Southern California by a detective who broke the case from a recent tip.

According to authorities, Amber's foster family went to a Chuck E. Cheese in Norwalk on the 10900 block of Firestone Boulevard for an arranged meeting with the birth mother. During that visit, the girl was abducted by three aunts, police said.

Authorities were able to track the child down to the Phoenix area, and while serving a court order at a home in Phoenix, investigators found the girl. She was hidden in a bathroom shower under some clothes.

"That was heart wrenching for me because I knew the circumstances," said Det. Jerry Saba of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Saba had worked the case exhaustively for eight months after receiving a tip in November.

It is unclear what the relationship is between the aunts and the family Amber was found living with. They are not relatives.

Two of the aunts were arrested the night of the abduction. The third aunt went missing with the child.

Police said when the child was found, she appeared to be in good shape. She was positively identified with footprints, photographs and DNA swabs.

"The child seemed well cared for. The child was very happy," said Capt. Patrick Maxwell of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

Maxwell said Amber's name and birth date had been changed, and she was not attending school.

It is unclear if the girl will be returned to her foster family. It is also unclear what kind of charges the three aunts will be facing. All three were minors at the time of the kidnapping.

One reason why there are so many unanswered questions in this case is some of the records were sealed because the aunts were minors. Authorities are trying to get the records unsealed.


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