Victim, editor aid Clovis arrest of kidnapping suspect
Information provided by a 10-year-old girl and a Dinuba newspaper editor helped authorities capture the girl’s suspected kidnapper at a Clovis home Wednesday morning.
Kalvin Michael Cardenas, 23, of Clovis, was taken into custody after a Fresno County sheriff’s SWAT team flooded a house that he was hiding in with tear gas. Cardenas is accused of kidnapping the girl Tuesday morning in east-central Fresno, sexually assaulting her and abandoning her west of Kerman.
Sheriff Margaret Mims said the girl was a “great witness” and able to describe the suspect and his truck. “She helped us solve this case,” Mims said. “She’s quite something.”
The other break came from Dinuba Sentinel editor Linda Renn, who remembered that a truck like the one described Tuesday night by authorities was involved in an attempted kidnapping of a Dinuba girl in May. A school janitor helped thwart the kidnapping and pointed police to the suspect, who turned out to be Cardenas.
Cardenas, who lives in Dinuba occasionally with his father, was arrested May 18 for annoying a child and carrying a weapon in the truck. He spent four days in jail but was never charged. Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Shani Jenkins said Wednesday that the case is still under investigation.
Renn said that something clicked when she saw televised reports of the kidnapping Tuesday. That prompted her to call the sheriff’s department.
Detectives found Cardenas’ truck Tuesday afternoon on Cedar Avenue south of Shaw Avenue. A SWAT team went to a nearby apartment, believed to be one that Cardenas stopped at after leaving the truck. Information they gathered there led detectives to the Clovis home about two miles away in the 900 block of National Avenue just west of Willow Avenue, which deputies and police surrounded at 3:45 a.m. Two people described as Cardenas’ roommates left the home when deputies called out residents.
Cardenas tried to get away through a back window, but when he saw the home was surrounded, he hid inside. A sheriff’s negotiator telephoned him, but Cardenas hung up on him.
Finally, deputies sent tear gas into the home, forcing Cardenas to surrender. A thick cloud of tear gas enveloped the neighborhood a short time later, causing coughing and sneezing among those nearby, including deputies.
Deputies found items in the home related to the kidnapping and assault, but sheriff’s officials did not give details.
Cardenas was booked into Fresno County Jail on charges including kidnapping to commit rape, aggravated sexual assault of a minor with force, lewd acts with a minor under 14 years old, possession of child pornography and other sex-crime related charges. His bail is $560,000.
Cardenas is not a registered sex offender. Fresno County court records indicate only traffic violations in his history, such as running a red light and using a cell phone while driving. He had an open case in Fresno County Superior Court for driving without a valid license earlier this year. He has no criminal record in Tulare County.
Cardenas graduated from high school in Arizona and is “a good kid,” said his aunt, who asked not to be identified because the family was getting harassing phone calls Wednesday.
Cardenas, she said, had worked recently at an auto body shop in Fresno. He spent time living at her home and his father’s house in Dinuba.
The aunt said she feels sad for the kidnapped girl and her parents.
“My heart goes out to the parents,” she said. “It’s a terrible thing. It’s awful.”
The girl was kidnapped between 8:10 and 8:15 a.m. Tuesday while walking her bicycle to Fresno Unified’s Vinland Elementary School in east-central Fresno, where she was to catch a bus to a magnet school.
Sheriff’s officials said Cardenas grabbed the girl, put her in his truck and threw her bicycle and backpack in the bed. Sheriff’s reports say he drove her to a farming area near Napa Avenue and Highway 180, west of Kerman, where her wrists were bound and she was assaulted. The suspect left her in the weeds.
About 3:30 p.m., a family driving by saw the girl walking along the road and picked her up, Mims said. She was treated at a hospital Tuesday night.
Fresno Unified spokeswoman Susan Bedi said if a student doesn’t attend school and a parent fails to call in an absence, the district will make an automated phone call to the home after the school day. The district follows up with a personal call the following day, she said.
“There is no attendance system or process in any district that would prevent (Tuesday’s) tragic incident from occurring prior to the start of school,” Bedi said Wednesday.
View Girl kidnapped and assaultedin a larger map
By Jim Guy