South Pasadena police credited a 13-year-old girl’s quick-thinking actions — and her cellphone — with leading to the arrest of a child molestation suspect on Thursday.
The teen, a student at South Pasadena Middle School, had just left the campus early Wednesday afternoon and was walking eastbound on Oak Street when she noticed a man slowly driving a red Toyota Corolla on the road, according to the Police Department.
The man drove ahead of the teen and stopped at the intersection of Oak and Marengo Avenue, when she was approached by the suspect.
He “had asked her to get into the car, asked her if she needed a ride. And she refused that, and he continued to coax her, trying to get her in the car. She continued to refuse,” South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller said at a mid-afternoon news conference on Thursday.
The girl took out her cellphone, an action that apparently prompted the suspect to drive away, according to police. But before he managed to flee, she used the camera feature to snap an important photo.
“She had the wherewithal to take a picture of the car that the suspect was in, which was very, very key information for us to have,” Miller said.
The would-be-victim then called her father, who in turn contacted South Pasadena police; the department immediately began to investigate the incident, according to the chief.
Using the photo, police ran the license plate and identified its owner, 43-year-old Edwin Lineras. They then discovered Lineras had a $125,000 warrant out of the city of Alhambra for “child annoyance and unlawful sex with a minor.” Miller said.
The following morning, around 7 a.m., South Pasadena Officer Brian Wiley was working an unrelated case in Alhambra when he spotted the suspect’s car. He initiated a traffic stop and ultimately arrested Lineras.
“I was able to identify his vehicle only because of the simple fact of the picture” the teen had taken, Wiley said. “Just based off that picture, I was able to … verify his license plate, and then verify who he was, and then made the arrest.”
Wiley and Miller each praised the teen for her actions, as well as the lessons her parents instilled in her.
“Hopefully … other parents can kind of learn something off of this, instilling, you know, stay away from strangers, identifying who a stranger is. And in this case and point, being able to utilize her cellphone,” Wiley said.
Miller also emphasized the role of the teen’s mother and father in training their child to recognize danger.
“I spoke with the parents of the 13-year-old girl. He was very appreciative of not only what the police department has done, but the training he has installed in his daughter. And that training is that if you see something that you’re uncomfortable about, notify an adult, notify an authority,” he said.
Lineras had been wanted in connection to an Alhambra police investigation into an alleged unlawful sexual relationship between the suspect and a 15-year-old high school student that began last year, according to Alhambra Police Chief Timothy Vu.
The alleged relationship started through social media in Jan. 2016, and ended in November, he said.
Investigators worked to locate him, but couldn’t find track the suspect down. That’s when the warrant — for lewd acts with a minor and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor — was issued, according to Vu.
On Friday, Linares pleaded not guilty to those charges, and two additional charges of child molesting and attempted lewd act upon a child in connection with the South Pasadena incident, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
His bail was set at $500,000 and faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration, DA officials said.
Lineras does not have an extensive criminal history, according to Miller. The suspect had a forgery case and some misdemeanor DMV-related infractions in his past.
The public’s help was being sought by police as an investigation into the case continued.
“I’m asking the public if you’ve had any contact with the suspect – any time he might have approached a child, or anything like that – we would want to know about it,” Miller said.
He asked anyone who had information to call their local department or South Pasadena detectives at 626-403-7280.
KTLA’s Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this story.