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News Release

Monday, May 3, 1999

Media Relations

5 Year Old Kidnapped and Recovered

Monday, May 3, 1999


vnys_kidnap_vict.jpg (13357 bytes)On Friday, April 30, 1999 at approximately 10:00 PM, Joanna Lopez, a female Hispanic, 5 years of age was reported missing from her residence located in the 6600 block of Sepulveda Boulevard. Joanna is described as 3 feet tall, 42 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a pink sweat suit with a brown bear on the front and black sandals with flowers on them.

At this time, Joanna Lopez is being considered avnys_kidnap_susp.jpg (16189 bytes) kidnapped victim. The possible suspect is identified as Raul Rodriguez, a male, Hispanic, 45-48 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches in height and weighs approximately 150 pounds. Rodriguez is a family acquaintance and at the time of this incident, Rodriguez was involved in removing some packages from a white, 1994 Ford Aerostar van, license number 3HPX246 owned by a family friend. Joanna was with Rodriguez during this time and it has been reported that Rodriguez had the keys to the van. When Joanna and Rodriguez did not return promptly, it was discovered that the van, Rodriguez and Joanna were missing. The preliminary investigation has revealed that Rodriguez has made reference to Las Vegas in the recent past and due to the possibility of travel to Nevada, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been notified.

The missing vehicle has now been reported stolen and all information has been forwarded to all California law enforcement agencies, the United States Border Patrol, and Las Vegas and Nevada Authorities.

At this time we are requesting the public's assistance in locating Joanna Lopez, Raul Rodriguez or the stolen van. If located do not approach, immediately contact a local law enforcement agency.

If you have any information on this incident, please contact the Van Nuys Watch Commander at 818-756-8346 or the Van Nuys Detectives at 818-756-8371.


On Sunday, May 2, 1999, at approximately 9:25 PM, a motorist and his wife were on Highway 46 at Utica Avenue in Fresno County. He and his wife observed the white Ford Aerostar van. They recognized the vehicle and license plate from the newspapers. The motorist called on a cellular phone and advised that he was following the van, with the suspect and the victim inside. Fresno California Highway Patrol (CHP) responded to the call. The suspect fled, and the officers pursued. The pursuit ended at 10:25 PM, when the CHP used a spike strip, disabling the van. The suspect held the girl and refused to exit the vehicle, prompting a two-hour standoff. Rodriguez finally gave up peacefully and was taken into custody. Johanna is reported as being in good spirits.

The suspect has been arrested and Joanna has been recovered. She was examined by doctors, however, the details of the examination are not yet known.

Detective Jack Giroud from Robbery Homicide Division is in Fresno at this time to take custody of the suspect and reunite Joanna with her mother. Joanna's mother accompanied detectives to Fresno. Detective Giroud handled the case and Robbery-Homicide Division is handling the investigation.

The Los Angeles Police Department thanks the public, the media, and the California Highway Patrol for their concern and assistance.

For further information, please contact Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.

For Release 11:00 am PST
May 3, 1999