The child is safe and at home after the hour-long ordeal that touched off around 7 a.m., when the car was left running at a home on Thomas Drive, according to the Las Cruces Police Department.
“The young girl’s mother went back into her home for a moment,” police said in a news release. ” When she returned, her car and daughter were gone.”
Officers immediately began searching the area and issued a “Be On the Lookout” alert for other law enforcement agencies to keep their eyes peeled.
Around 8 a.m., a New Mexico State Police officer saw the car going east on Interstate 10 toward El Paso and followed it until it exited near Anthony, the release reads.
The State Police officer “engaged in a relatively slow-speed pursuit” before the car stopped on Stern Drive and West Berino Road.
The driver, 35-year-old Victor Castillo, was taken into custody and the girl was found inside the car. She showed no signs of physical injury.
Castillo, who lives in unincorporated Doña Ana County, is charged with a third-degree felony count of child abuse and one fourth-degree felony count of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, Las Cruces police said in a Thursday afternoon case update. Police also said Castillo was had been arrested Wednesday at the CVS pharmacy on North Main Street, after officers were called there on a shoplifting complaint. Castillo was arrested on two bench warrants for failure to pay fines. Police said he was booked into the Doña Ana County jail at 5:39 a.m. Wednesday and released on bond about 12 hours later.
The Thursday morning incident allowed the police department to serve up these reminders: “refrain from leaving vehicles unattended while warming up. Children should never be left unattended in a vehicle. And, without question, children should never be left unattended in a running vehicle.”