ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A mother who chased down an abductor and ran into his car after he grabbed her 4-year-old said Friday her "mother's instincts" kicked in when she launched her pursuit.
Melissa Torrez told The Associated Press that she began her chase "without any feeling" as soon as other children in the Albuquerque apartment complex told her a man took her daughter late Wednesday afternoon.
"My mind went black. I grabbed my keys," said the 27-year-old mother of three. "I just got in my car and I ...went looking for her."
Torrez said she remained only focused on getting her daughter back and quickly drove around the complex as teenagers chased the suspected abductor, later identified by police as 31-year-old David Hernandez. The teenagers pointed out his whereabouts, she said.
Torrez said she eventually found a man in a brown Buick who led her on a high-speed chase throughout Albuquerque. "I went after it," she said. "I just followed him."
The pair zigzagged through traffic on Interstate 40 as the suspected abductor tried to bluff exiting a number of time to lose her, Torrez said. "I felt like I was flying ... as if I didn't have my soul or something," she said.
The frantic mom was able to corner the man in the brown Buick at an apartment complex with no exit. She said as she approached his vehicle, she lost control of her car and struck his car. "I wasn't trying to hit it because I thought my daughter was inside," Torrez said.
Torrez said the man got out of the car and raised his hands but took off running when police arrived. She then ran toward the car to search for her daughter but the vehicle was empty. Torrez said she saw only one thing inside: an infant car seat.
According to a police report, Hernandez pushed the 4-year-old out of the car at the Saint Anthony's Plaza Apartment complex short after the abduction "presumably once he notice Torrez had been notified and was following him."
Authorities said the child was uninjured.
Torrez said she found out that her daughter was safe when neighbors called to let her know she was located.
Police arrested Hernandez the next day following a massive manhunt that involved Homeland Security Investigations and the newly created multiagency called Sexual Predator and Exploitation Enforcement Detail, or SPEED — a task force aimed at finding missing and abducted children.
Hernandez was charged him with kidnapping and child abuse. He told reporters Thursday he was innocent.
It was unclear if he had an attorney.
Police were also investigating a possible connection to the abduction and sexual assault of a 6-year-old from the same apartment complex last week. The suspect in that case was described as a male in a silver or gray vehicle.
Torrez said the ordeal has left her on edge. "I'm overprotective but I'm even more overprotective now," she said. "That's my baby."