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Kidnapped 7-year-old girl escaped capture by jumping out of suspect's car

Surveillance photo from Emerald Village Apartments. (Photo: San Antonio police department)
Surveillance photo from Emerald Village Apartments. (Photo: San Antonio police department)
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A San Antonio man faces kidnapping charges after a 7-year-old escaped his capture by jumping out of the suspect's car.

Police said Jack Steele, 42, spent about an hour loitering inside the Emerald Village Apartments near Loop 1604 and Redland Road last Thursday night, before he turned his attention to a 7-year-old girl who was behind a dumpster with her dog. It was around 8:15 p.m., investigators said, when Steele walked up behind the girl and dragged her to his SUV.

According to his arrest warrant affidavit, Steele drove off with the girl, but while he was waiting for the gate to open so he could leave the complex, the child jumped out of the vehicle and started screaming. Investigators said Steele sped away as a witness notified the child's parent, who called police.

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"That brave young girl," said Sgt. Michelle Ramos of San Antonio Police. "I couldn't imagine what she was going through."

The child later told police more about the abduction, saying that a barefoot white man came up behind her, dragged her left arm on the ground and threw her in the back seat of his SUV, which she said had black vinyl or leather interior. She told investigators she was upset because her dog got separated from its leash during the abduction and was still missing.

During the hour before the kidnapping, surveillance video at Emerald Village showed a bald man with a left bicep tattoo parking a red SUV in a No Parking Zone that faced the swimming pool, police said. The arrest report also said he appeared barefoot and was wearing a white tank top and black shorts. Unfortunately, investigators noted, several of the cameras at the complex were not functioning, so the actual kidnapping and the girl's escape were not captured on video.

Soon after the kidnapping, police released some of the surveillance photos of the barefoot bald man to the public, and the tips started coming.

"With all the tips that we received, (detectives) were able to establish who this individual was," Ramos said. "I cannot say thank you enough to the community for giving the police that information which led to his arrest."

Through the tips, detectives located a possible address for Steele at the Bella Claire Apartments off Loop 410 and Nacogdoches Road and soon encountered Steele and his red SUV. According to the arrest report, Steele showed them the tattoo on his left arm, which matched the image from the surveillance video, then asked detectives if they were there to see him because he was trespassing at a pool the day before. Police said he refused to come to the substation to give a statement and appeared to be intoxicated, but he did speak to an officer outside his apartment. His vehicle was impounded for evidence, police said.

Steele told police he wanted to "go for a drive" since he had just purchased a new vehicle. Even though his apartment complex has a swimming pool, he said wanted to go check out a new location, according to the arrest report. When an officer showed Steele a still image of him by the pool, he said he didn't know a picture had been taken, police said. While he wouldn't come right out and admit that he was the person in the picture, he did concede that he'd been wearing the same clothes shown in the picture, according to the report. Steele, however, denied anyone being with him in his vehicle, and he denied interacting with the child.

After obtaining a search warrant for Steele's vehicle, detectives said they found evidence inside his SUV that corroborated the little girl's story.

Six days after the alleged kidnapping, detectives returned to Steele's apartment Wednesday and arrested him.

He now faces a charge for kidnapping, a third-degree felony.

"As a parent, this is always upsetting to hear," Ramos said. "We are glad he's behind bars."

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