Baby found safe after car stolen in Van Nuys

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An 11-month-old baby boy was found safe after the car he was riding in was stolen in Van Nuys on Tuesday.

The child was inside a white 2001 Infiniti G20 near Gault Street and Sepulveda Boulevard just east of the 405 Freeway when it was stolen by a woman around 10 a.m., police said.

The Infiniti was left running and unattended at the time it was stolen. Police said the mother was in the area to pick up her other child who was being taken care of by a caretaker in the area.

She left the car running because she intended to run in, pick up her child and run back out, police said. However, when she came back out from retrieving her other child, she saw an unknown woman get into the Infiniti and take off.

LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza said an alert citizen called police and reported seeing an abandoned car with a child in the back seat. Officers responded to the area near Enadia Way near Gloria Avenue immediately and found the boy, named Leo, in the car, Carranza said.

"I decided I had to call it in, so I called it in," said Ralph Shahijanian, who found Leo.

Leo was taken to an area hospital to be evaluated as a precaution. Officers at the scene said they believed the baby was left alone in the car for around two hours after the thief ditched the vehicle.

Paula, Leo's mother, said the whole incident was a learning lesson for her and advised other mothers not to leave their child in their car.

"Even if you're going in your house for a second ... to take them with you because it happens. Now that I see it, it happened to me," she said.

According to LAPD, the suspect was identified as Maria Elizabeth De La Torre, a known gang member. Police say she admitted over the phone that she stole the unattended car in Van Nuys but denied knowing the child was inside. De La Torre was expected to turn herself in, police said.
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