Officials said Terrence Ford was in charge of taking care of his daughter at a home in the 22400 block of Terrace Pines Drive in Grand Terrace while her mother went to work.
Next door neighbor Edwin Gomez said that's not what happened.
"I guess the baby was crying too much and what he did was put her in the garage," said Gomez, who spoke to the child's grandmother. "What she told us was he turned the light off and left the baby there."
The toddler's grandmother said she went to check on her granddaughter and found her locked away.
The grandmother told investigators she went to find Ford after discovering the girl.
"She went into the home and found the child's father, Terrence Ford, upstairs apparently eating and watching television," said Jodi Miller of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department.
Investigators said Ford ran from the home after the victim's grandmother told him she had contacted the authorities.
Ford is facing child neglect charges. He was last seen driving away in a white Toyota 4Runner with the license plate number 4UAA589.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department at (800) 782-7463.