Text Messages Save a Missing Girl's Life
A once annoying cell phone feature is now a life saver...
A missing 15-year-old Salt Lake City girl helped police find her and catch her alleged kidnapper this week by sending text messages to her family throughout her ordeal.
Ginna Pineda disappeared Monday, leaving a note that said Martin Melendez-Borunda, her 19-year-old boyfriend, had forced her to go with him by threatening to kill her family if she didn't.
"I have to do this even if I don't want to do it," the note said, according to court documents. "I love you all and I have to sacrifice myself for you all, love you. If you go to Mexico one day, look for me."
Police used the girl's text messages to track them to New Mexico, where Melendez-Borunda was arrested on Tuesday. Charges of second-degree kidnapping were filed against him Wednesday in the 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City.Pineda's family believed Melendez-Borunda was angry because they had kicked him out of their house for being verbally abusive to the girl, according to court documents.
She had recently sent a text message to her cousin saying that Melendez-Borunda would kill or rape her if she ever cheated on him. Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Lt. Paul Jarosack said Pineda's note and the verbal abuse her family described led police to believe the girl did not leave willingly and was in danger.
"She also left us with the impression she was almost sacrificing herself for the good of her family, because they may have been in danger," Jarosack said. The sheriff's office alerted the FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and state and local agencies throughout the region, but Pineda played the key role in getting herself home safe.
When she sent a text message to her family Tuesday saying she was in a silver Chevy Silverado and thought she was in Denver, it gave police their first lead on what kind of vehicle to look for and where she might be. She also told family members she was scared and wanted to go home. "I have to stop texting, he is going to find out and take my phone away," Pineda wrote in one message.
Pineda, who goes by "Abi," then sent a text message to one of her friends saying Melendez-Borunda had said he "would kill everyone" in her family if she hadn't left with him.
By tracking the signal sent by her phone, police were able to determine that Pineda and Melendez-Borunda were in Denver, but they weren't there long. At 12:35 p.m. Tuesday, Melendez-Borunda sent Pineda's mother a text message.
"I am Martin, excuse [sic] for having taken Abi this way but I had to, to protect her and I will take care of her," the text message said. Police tracked that message to New Mexico, somewhere between the towns of Socorro and Truth or Consequences. New Mexico State Department of Public Safety Capt. Richard Williams said the department had been notified about Pineda's disappearance and were on the lookout not only for a silver Chevy Silverado, but for any other cars with Utah license plates. Officers noticed a car with a Utah license plate at about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Even though it was not a Silverado, they ran the plates through their system and it came back registered to Melendez-Borunda, he said.
"Once we had enough backup, we pulled them over," Williams said. When police stopped the car in Las Cruces, N.M., they found Pineda inside, and Melendez-Borunda and two other men who were not identified were arrested without incident, he said. Jarosack said Melendez-Borunda is being held in New Mexico in lieu of $750,000 bail. Other charges may be filed by the FBI or the sheriff's office when he is brought back to Utah, Jarosack said. Melendez-Borunda faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the kidnapping charge.