SOUTH SALT LAKE (ABC 4 News) – Authorities have arrested Angel V. Garcia, 55, from Draper in connection with the disappearance of Herriman girl Brooklyn Gittins.
Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder said Garcia was arrested Wednesday night at his home. He is charged with kidnapping, harboring a runaway, obstructing justice and child endangerment.
Winder said Garcia knew Brooklyn through friends prior to the kidnapping and had been talking to her for some time. He would not say how the two met.
"I want to be cautious," says Winder. "I can say the two knew each other prior to the kidnapping."
According to the probable cause statement filed at the jail "(Brooklyn) disclosed that she used a phone provided to her by Angel Garcia to call Angel for a ride from her residence. (Brooklyn) said she did not know what time she made the call, but he came from his home in Draper to give her a ride to his residence."
The probable cause statement also stated that Brooklyn was in Angel's residence and heard police come to the door. "She went into a bedroom to hide while Angel answered the door. (Brooklyn) said when the officers left the residence she left with Angel and he drove her to a Harmon's... and dropped her off."
The jail document also stated that "(Brooklyn) said she stayed hidden in a ditch until Angel returned to pick her up."
Brooklyn was once again picked up by Garcia, according to the jail document and stated there until later in the evening "when she asked Angel for a ride to the Wal-Mart to call her grandmother."
Despite the fact that Brooklyn could have left on her own while at Harmon's Winder maintains that Brooklyn was a victim and Garcia the bad guy.
"She was in possession of Mr. Garcia," Winder says. "There were active efforts by him to harbor this individual."
Brooklyn's grandfather says the family was relieved to learn of Garcia's arrest.
"I’m just thankful they were able to track him down I imagine from information from their investigation and a little bit from Brooklyn," says Craig Hiller. "I’m just glad they’re going to prosecute with the full extent of the law."
Hiller says he was vaguely familiar with Garcia.
"He was an acquaintance I guess or a dad of one of her friends from a previous residence,"
Hiller believed the two families were friends while they lived in the same neighborhood in Midvale. The Gittins now live in Herriman and Garcia in Draper.
And when asked that it appeared Brooklyn had an opportunity to leave Garcia while hiding in a ditch, Hiller was stumped.
The case will now be turned over to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to see if formal charges will be filed against Garcia.
Brooklyn was kidnapped from her home on January 8. She was found safely three days later at a South Jordan Wal-Mart when she called her grandmother.
Her disappearance set off a massive search last week, both on the ground and in the air. Because she left home wearing only pajamas, the girl's family was especially concerned about her staying warm in freezing temperatures. When she left, Brooklyn was also without shoes, a coat and her eyeglasses.
Winder said this case bring attention to the public about how children communicate with and act around adults.
He thanked the community for their support during search efforts to find Brooklyn.