- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) A 4-year-old girl who disappeared from a park during the weekend was found safe at a medical clinic yesterday, police said.

A staff member at St. John's Well Child Center called police after recognizing Jessica Cortez, according to Officer Jack Richter. The woman who brought the girl to the clinic was taken into custody, Officer Richter said.

The girl was later taken to a hospital, where she was reunited with her family. She appeared dirty and disheveled, said interim Los Angeles Police Chief Martin Pomeroy.

The chief said it was too early to call the woman in custody a suspect. He said they were still investigating the child's disappearance and whereabouts.

Jessica had been at Echo Park west of downtown Los Angeles with her parents and brother Sunday night. Her parents, Rafael Cortez and Maria Hernandez, sell tacos from a stand across the street from the park.

The family discovered her missing about 7:30 p.m. Shortly afterward, witnesses told police they saw her walking with a man accompanied by a brown Chihuahua dog. Police said last night they were still looking for that man.

Police divers spent hours searching the park's murky lake as hundreds of officers canvassed the neighborhood. The city and FBI had offered a total of $45,000 in rewards.

Jim Mangia of St. John's Well Child Center told KCAL-TV a woman came into the clinic with a child and said she wanted a doctor to examine the girl.

Clinic workers recognized the girl as the missing child, he said. When they asked the girl her name she replied, "Jessica." She also said the woman wasn't her mother, Mr. Mangia told the television station.

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