- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2002

A month-old girl snatched yesterday morning from her family's minivan in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Abilene, Texas, was returned safely to her parents several hours later after police arrested a former prison guard in the abduction.
Nancy Crystal Chavez, apparently none the worse for her ordeal, was found 125 miles north of Abilene when a small-town sheriff stopped a suspect driving in Quanah, Texas, a few miles south of the Texas-Oklahoma border.
Hardeman County Sheriff Randy Akers said he was following a tip from a Quanah resident and information provided by various law enforcement agencies under the state's "Amber Alert," which quickly distributes abduction details statewide on TV, radio and electronic road signs.
"I knew it was the baby," said the sheriff, "knew it almost for sure, right away. When I saw that baby and it had pierced ears, there wasn't any doubt in my mind."
Nancy was reunited last night with her parents, Margarita and Salvador Chavez, at the Abilene police station.
About three dozen residents and police department employees applauded and cheered as the baby was carried into the building.
"I don't have sufficient words to say thanks, and I ask God that he blesses each one of you. God bless America," Mr. Chavez said as his wife held the infant during a news conference.
The suspect, identified as Paula Roach, 24, of Quanah, was said to be a former correctional officer at a Texas prison. Miss Roach was charged with kidnapping Nancy from the minivan as her mother returned a shopping cart.
A man who said he was Miss Roach's boyfriend told reporters in Quanah that she had come to him Tuesday night and said she had baby that was his.
"I really don't know what to think about it," he said. "I just don't know what got into her. I don't know what possessed her to do this."
Within five hours of the arrest, Abilene detectives had rushed Nancy's footprints from the hospital where she had been born to Quanah. The prints matched perfectly, police said.
Officers said Mrs. Chavez had finished shopping and had just placed her three children in her minivan when she momentarily left the vehicle to return a shopping cart about 10 feet away.
As she turned to return to her van, police said, she noticed a woman grabbing the baby and child seat and shoving them inside another car.
Mrs. Chavez ran to the fleeing car but was unable to halt the kidnapper.
"I yelled, 'That's my baby don't take my baby,' but she run then I tried to pull her hair or something through the window," Mrs. Chavez recalled at last night's news conference.
Her arms were bandaged and she had bruises on her face. "I was hanging on the window and I couldn't hold anymore, so I fall."
A bystander, reacting to the woman's screams, lunged at the speeding car and broke out a window, but failed to stop the escape.
The other two Chavez children, ages 2 and 6, were unharmed.
The incident was captured by a security camera, but the suspect's license-plate number was indistinguishable.
The suspect had driven around the parking lot for several minutes, apparently looking for a child.
The video also confirmed that the abductor was alone in the vehicle.
The sheriff said he stopped the vehicle a blue, midsized sedan because it matched the description made public within minutes of the abduction.
He said the driver was Miss Roach's mother, who also lives in Quanah. Miss Roach, he said, was holding the baby and claimed it was hers.
Miss Roach was being held at the Hardeman County jail and was to be returned to Abilene.
Her mother was not involved, the sheriff said.

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