17-year-old boy held captive for nearly 200 miles from home as three men face life sentences
In a terrifying kidnapping case, a 17-year-old California teen was rescued after his captors threatened to cut off his body parts and demanded a $500,000 ransom from his mother. According to officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, three men have been arrested and charged for allegedly kidnapping the boy near Highland, California before holding him captive nearly 200 miles away in Santa Maria.
Fidel Jesús Patino Jaimes (22), Jair Tomás Ramos Domínguez (26) and Ezequiel Felix López (27) allegedly caused a car collision that resulted in the teen crashing into their vehicle on the morning of September 18th in San Bernardino County. The defendants then forced the 17-year-old into their silver Jeep Grand Cherokee and took him hostage.
Later that day, the victim’s mother received a frightening phone call from a Mexican number demanding she pay $500,000 to an unspecified location in Nogales, Mexico for her son’s safety. “The caller blamed the abduction on the victim’s father,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. In a further chilling development, the mother later received a video via WhatsApp showing the teen in the backseat of the Jeep, visibly distraught as he was forced to read from a script insisting the kidnapping was his father’s fault over an incident in New York. Most horrifyingly of all, the speaker threatened to cut off the boy’s body parts if the ransom was not paid.
Law enforcement worked tirelessly to track down the kidnappers’ vehicle
Thankfully, law enforcement including the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Maria Police Department and FBI sprung into action. By identifying the kidnappers’ Jeep Grand Cherokee from a Facebook Marketplace ad and obtaining key surveillance footage, investigators were able to trace the vehicle’s location. With a search warrant in hand, authorities then stormed a Santa Maria motel room where they found the 17-year-old terrorized victim cowering in a corner. “Few things can be as terrorizing to a parent as having your child kidnapped and held for ransom under threat of physical harm,” said Estrada, commending the heroic multi-agency effort that ended the harrowing ordeal.
All three kidnapping suspects now face life sentences, with their first court appearance set for this coming Monday in Riverside, California. This continues to serve as a reminder of the grim realities of kidnapping-for-ransom crimes and human trafficking that continue to plague society. However, it also highlights the tireless work of law enforcement and first responders, who put their own safety at risk every day to protect communities and save innocent lives. Our thoughts remain with the recovering victim and his family as they process this traumatic experience, thankful their child was returned to them safely.