COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - After a night of terror, wondering where their 9-year-old daughter was, a Pueblo couple laughed and cried when they heard that the little girl was found safe Friday morning.
A KRDO Newschannel 13 crew was the first to break the news to the girl's family and neighbors. The group started yelling, crying and hugging when police confirmed that their prayers had been answered.
"Thank you for everybody who kept an eye out for my daughter and brought her home," said Stephanie Cordova, the girl's mom.
The family soon found out just how brave the girl had been. Customers at the Colorado Springs Circle K on Woodman Road, near Interstate 25 said they recognized the girl when she came into the store with her alleged kidnapper. Before they could act, she did.
"She looked at me, right in my eyes," said witness Efren Vialpando. "That's when she looked at the guy. She said she wasn't going anywhere, she was waiting right there for her mama."
Police said the girl called 911 and the man she was with took off running. Police caught Jose Garcia, 29, at a bus station downtown.
"I'm proud of my little girl, trust me I'm proud," said the girl's dad, Steven Ryno.
Family said Garcia is a neighbor's ex-boyfriend and told KRDO Newschannel 13 that he had been accused of sexually assaulting another little girl the same day of the kidnapping.
The day brought many different emotions for the family, especially when they learned the girl had been beaten up. She went to the hospital with two black eyes, bruises on her face and a cut lip.
"We're angry at the situation and the person that did it," said Kim Beeman, the girl's aunt. "We're sad it happened to her."
Beeman described the 9-year-old as a lovable, sweet girl.
"We're proud of her," said Beeman. "She's the strongest little girl I've ever met. I hope she can somehow find a way to work through this."