A 13-month-old girl who was recovered safely after an Amber Alert in the Antelope Valley was abducted by a pimp who had also brutally assaulted and tortured the baby’s mother, a sex worker, authorities said Monday.
The child was found alone in a shed in Palmdale after her disappearance was reported about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, when her mother ran to a home to get help.
The baby was expected to make a full recovery and was in the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Sheriff’s Department officials said at a news conference Monday.
Investigators called it a “tragic case of human trafficking” that highlighted the way that pimps use “trauma bonds” to manipulate prostitutes.
Deputies were first called to a home in the Lake Los Angeles area about 6:30 a.m. Saturday to contact a sexual assault victim. When they got there, they learned of the woman’s child had been abducted.
The woman, a 40-year-old prostitute, and her baby daughter, identified over the weekend as Penelope Rodriguez, were staying at a Motel 6 in Palmdale, sheriff’s investigators said.
The mother was sexually assaulted, tortured and kidnapped, authorities learned, with the attack initially occurring at the motel, authorities said.
The violence was motivated by retaliation related to the use of illegal drugs and stolen money, investigators said.
The woman made her way to a home and was able to report the assault, saying her attacker planned to go retrieve the child from the motel, authorities said. It was not clear how the victim got to the desert.
“She was naked. She ran to their house. She apparently ran anywhere from 1 mile to 3 or 4 miles, out in the desert. The first house she came to, she knocked on their door and sought help,” Lancaster Station Sgt. Steve Owen said.
Though the girl’s mother had been brutally assaulted by her pimp, she gave investigators false information about the suspect in an attempt to protect the pimp, authorities said Monday.
Based on information provided by the victim, the Sheriff’s Department issued an Amber Alert — including the false details about a man who was later determined not to be a suspect.
“In this case, the trauma bonds were so strong that the victim was willing to sacrifice the personal safety of her 13-month-old daughter in order to protect the suspects,” sheriff’s Lt. Michael Irving said.
After receiving tips from a confidential informant following the Amber Alert, investigators were able to identify another man, 33-year-old Brandon Wynn, as a suspect.
Just before 3 p.m., deputies found Wynn driving a blue Ford Contour at East Avenue T-8 and 40th Street East in Palmdale, with a 16-year-old boy as a passenger.
Wynn and the teen, who was not identified, were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
The two males, both from the Antelope Valley, told investigators where they could find the baby: in a storage shed about a half-mile from where the pair were arrested.
She was discovered unattended and very dehydrated, still in her car seat. The baby was hospitalized and treated.
“To be able to find the baby, and find that she’s still healthy and alive is just the ultimate relief. That’s why we do the job,” Owen said.
The mother, who was also hospitalized for a severe beating and sexual assault, was going to receive social services and be assigned a victim advocate, authorities said. She was was not facing charges.
Inmate records listed Wynn as 33. Sheriff’s investigators described him as 35 in a news release and as 34 at Monday’s news conference. He is not the father of the baby, authorities said.
Wynn was believed to have other victims whom he used as prostitutes.
Multiple detectives and other sheriff’s personnel came in on their days off to help find the baby, the Lancaster Station official said.