JEROME — A report of a runaway girl escalated into a full-scale Amber Alert on May 20 after police believed a 17-year-old Jerome teen was abducted by her ex-boyfriend.
After a brief police chase and a five-hour search late Monday, Sandra Rios-Chavez, 17, was found unharmed early May 21 near Surprise, Arizona. She’d been missing for more than 24 hours and was with kidnapping suspect Miguel Rodriguez-Perez, 18, of Jerome, police said. Police believe she was taken Sunday evening from the Wendy’s restaurant parking lot where she worked on South Lincoln Avenue in Jerome.
It is unknown if Rios-Chavez was coerced or taken forcefully, but police are treating this as a kidnapping because Rodriguez-Perez is an adult and Rios-Chavez a juvenile, Jerome Police Chief Dan Hall said.
“We don’t know to what extent she was cooperative in going with him,” he said. “Even if she went willingly, it’s still illegal for him to take her across state lines.”
Rodriguez-Perez was being interviewed and held on a warrant of custodial interference. He was booked into the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail later Tuesday morning.
“He will probably be there for some time,” Hall said.
Police initially filed the missing person case as a runaway juvenile on Sunday evening. But on Monday, a school resource officer at Rios-Chavez’ high school got involved, as well as a police detective, Hall said. The pair began interviewing and looking for video at the Wendy’s restaurant and determined the teen was likely with Rodriguez-Perez.
Because of a previous relationship, Rodriguez-Perez’ history of domestic violence and another violation of a no-contact order, the Jerome Police Department decided to get the FBI involved. An Amber Alert was issued Monday afternoon. The Associated Press reported that Rodriguez-Perez had threatened and assaulted Rios-Chavez in the past.
Police believed Rodriguez-Perez was headed to Arizona, where he has relatives. The Arizona Department of Transportation tweeted Monday that his phone was pinged in Kingman and he has contacts in Mexico.
Police, meanwhile, were receiving reports of vehicles similar to the suspect’s. The vehicle was spotted in Nevada, Hall said.
Police in Surprise found the suspect vehicle Monday evening and attempted to conduct a traffic stop, the department said in a press release Tuesday. The driver led police on a chase and abandoned the vehicle about 5 minutes later.
Several agencies were called in and a perimeter was established preceding a search that lasted nearly five hours. Agencies used K-9 teams, helicopters and numerous police officers and found the pair about 12:50 a.m. Rios-Chavez appeared to be unharmed and the suspect was taken into custody without incident.
Rodriguez-Perez could face federal charges as well as charges in Arizona because of the pursuit, Hall said. This is still an active case being investigated by the FBI and the Jerome Police Department.
As of late Tuesday morning, Rios-Chavez had not yet been returned home but was in the custody of the Department of Child Safety, Surprise police said. The Amber Alert has been canceled.
Assisting the Surprise Police Department were the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Corrections, Phoenix Police Department, Wickenburg Police Department, Peoria Police Department, Goodyear Police Department and the FBI.