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Watsonville man arrested in Delano for abducting son

Posted: Thursday, Jan 4th, 2007

On June 20, 2004, 5-year-old Jesus Espino-Meza was abducted from his Watsonville home, allegedly by his non-custodial father, Fernando Nava Espino. More than two and a half years later, the 8-year-old was found Monday in Delano, Kern County.

Espino, 50, of Watsonville was arrested in Delano Monday afternoon on charges that he abducted his son, Delano police reported.

Delano police had received information that Espino might have been in the area when they responded to reports of a suspicious subject at a local Taco Bell at 5:50 p.m. Monday, said Delano police Cmdr. Raul Alvizo.

“From what we gather, he was holding the bathroom door closed for his son so nobody would go inside,” Alvizo said. “It was kind of suspicious.”

When police officers contacted Espino at the Taco Bell, he initially provided false identification. Further investigation revealed Espino’s identity and that he was wanted in Watsonville for abducting his son and for several outstanding felony warrants, Alvizo said. He was booked at the Delano jail and then transported to the Kern County Jail.

Espino’s son was taken into protective custody in Kern County and has been reunited with his mother, Alvizo said. Espino remains in custody and will eventually be transferred back to Watsonville, according to the Watsonville Police Department.

Espino’s arrest came after Watsonville Police officer Frank Ibarra received a call from a Fresno County man who said he had spotted Espino and his son after watching a missing persons commercial featuring the 8-year-old. When the individual searched for the boy on www.missingkids.com, he saw the contact information for the Watsonville Police Department, Ibarra said.

When the quick-thinking man saw Espino and his son again, he used his cell phone to photograph the suspect’s license plate, which he then reported to the Watsonville Police Department. Ibarra told the man to contact the police if he saw them again, which he did after spotting the suspect’s vehicle outside Taco Bell on Monday.

“I’m a father, and if my kid was ever missing I would want someone to call,” the individual, who asked to remain anonymous, told Ibarra, who spoke to him several times between Saturday and the Monday arrest.

According to Ibarra, officers on the scene Monday said the child appeared healthy, although one officer said he was hungry and took him for a hamburger. At first, the boy reported a false name, but when an officer asked what his name was “before,” Espino-Meza revealed his identity, Ibarra said.

The child’s mother, who has since moved to Santa Clara County, was overjoyed when Ibarra gave her the news. In fact, she told him she had sensed that something was about to happen Monday when he called. Ibarra also had to prepare the mother for difficult news — Espino-Meza was told that his mother was dead, Ibarra said.

In 2004, Espino was suspected of abducting his three children during a routine visit. The two older kids were quickly found in Madera, but Espino-Meza was never located.

Ibarra gives the bulk of the credit in finding Espino-Meza to the individual who spotted him. Since Ibarra took the case in 2004, seven officers have worked to find the boy, Ibarra said.

In fact, of the 200-300 missing person cases that Ibarra has worked on in his 12 years with the Watsonville Police Department, he had never had a successful outcome after such a lengthy disappearance.

“I was happy that someone called it in, especially being such an old case,” Ibarra said. “After time passes, people forget about it. Fortunately the reporting party was able to see that on the TV.”

“I’m pretty happy — it’s a good way to start the year,” Ibarra added.

For more information on missing persons, visit the Web site www.missingkids.com or contact the Watsonville Police Department at 768-3300.


(Published in 1/4/07 edition)

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