After the arrest of a 13-year-old Herriman girl’s alleged abductor, Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder said the story behind the case was “complicated.”
On Thursday, some of that tale came to light in a probable cause statement that accompanied a 55-year-old Draper man’s arrest and booking into Salt Lake County jail Wednesday night on suspicion of first-degree felony child kidnapping; second-degree felony obstructing an officer making an official search or investigation; class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment; and class B misdemeanor providing shelter to a runaway.
The arrest of Angel Vizuet Garcia came just hours after Brooklyn Gittins finally spoke to police in detail about her Jan. 8 disappearance, and what occurred between then and the night of Jan. 10 when she called her grandmother from a West Jordan Wal-Mart.
In the probable cause statement, Unified Police Department Officer Troy Martinez wrote that Gittins initially refused to answer questions when detectives attempted an interview at her Herriman home shortly after her return. However, on Wednesday, Martinez was called by the girl’s mother “stating she was now talking about where she had been and who she had been with.”
Martinez arranged an interview with Gittins at the South Valley Children’s Justice Center. According to the statement, the girl told police Garcia had earlier given her the cellphone she used to call him the night of Jan. 8, and he then drove from Draper to Herriman to pick her up.
Investigators earlier had learned Gittins left in her pajamas and without shoes or her glasses — the same state she was found in when recovered two days later.
Gittins stayed in Garcia’s house while she was gone, at one point hiding in a bedroom when police knocked on his door as part of their search for her. “She could hear the people at the door asking about her because she heard her name mentioned,” the probable cause statement alleged.
After that, Garcia allegedly drove the girl to a Harmon’s store near 700 East and 11400 South in Draper, where she hid in a ditch. Garcia then drove away, but returned about two hours later — his whereabouts during that period unknown — to pick her up again, the statement contended.
Shortly after her return to Garcia’s home, the statement alleged, the girl asked Garcia to drive her to the Wal-Mart, where she called her grandmother shortly before midnight.
Martinez wrote that he obtained a search warrant after the interview with the girl and arrested Garcia at his Draper home. Garcia was then taken to a UPD substation in nearby Riverton, where he allegedly waived his Miranda rights and agreed to answer questions.
“Angel initially said he had not seen [the girl] for several months or years,” Martinez wrote. “Angel then admitted to picking [her] up at her residence because she was upset and called him for a ride.”
Garcia told Martinez that he did not know, nor did he ask the girl specifically “about why she ran away,” the statement claimed. He said he knew Gittins from when she had lived in his neighborhood a few years earlier.
“Angel said he did not know why he bought the cellphone for [the girl] but remembers giving [her] a pre-pay cellular phone. Angel said he did not speak with [the girl] very often on this phone, but it was the phone she used to call him to pick her up,” the statement concluded.
In a news conference Wednesday night, Winder said Garcia was taken into custody about 7:30 p.m.
After Gittins disappeared, police and more than 1,000 volunteers conducted extensive searches over two days for her in Herriman and surrounding communities.
Winder stressed that the girl was physically unharmed when recovered. He offered few details beyond those provided in the probable cause statement. The sheriff would say only that the girl and Garcia knew each other through “an association between common friends.”
Winder cautioned against speculation, especially about the victim.
“I don’t want to characterize young Brooklyn’s actions here, and I don’t think anybody else should either,” Winder said. “What we have to look at here is the suspect, who has in no uncertain terms behaved in a predatory fashion relative to a young member of our community.”
Winder said the case has been referred to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to determine specific charges.
A check of state court and prison records did not reveal any criminal history for Garcia.