55-year-old man arrested in disappearance of Herriman girl
Unified Police detectives arrested a 55-year-old Draper man they believe is connected to last week's disappearance of a Herriman girl who vanished from her home and emerged two days later unharmed but still in her pajamas without shoes.
Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder said Angel Garcia was arrested Wednesday at about 7:30 p.m. and has been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of child kidnapping, harboring a runaway, obstructing justice and child endangerment.
Brooklyn Gittins, 13, disappeared sometime between the night of Jan. 8 and the morning of Jan. 9. She left behind her shoes, glasses and was still wearing her pajamas. After two days of searching from more than 1,000 volunteers from Herriman and beyond, Gittins called her grandmother from a Walmart store in West Jordan on Thursday at 11:30 p.m. She was unharmed, but Salt Lake County authorities suspected that someone else may have been involved in the girl's mysterious disappearance.
As the search continued last week, officials suspected that Gittins may have been abducted, and that suspicion was corroborated after she found, Winder said.
Winder did not go into specifics about how Garcia knew Gittins, only to say that there was "an association between common friends." Garcia's arrest brought to a close what Winder described as a "complicated" case, and 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."
Police said that Gittins was not physically harmed during the time she went missing, a statement that Winder reiterated again Wednesday night. Winder alleged that Garcia knew about the community-wide search that took place while Gittins was missing and that there was a "significant" amount of premeditation that went into the alleged abduction. Where Garcia is alleged to have taken Gittins is still unclear.
"The locations are still being tracked down, but we believe there were several," Winder said.
Winder said the case will now go before the district attorney.