LOS ANGELES — The man suspected of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old Northridge girl made his first court appearance in Los Angeles Thursday.
32-year-old Tobias Dustin Summers was arrested in Mexico on Wednesday.
Summers did not enter a plea. His next hearing is scheduled for May 2.
Also Thursday, the family of the 10-year-old victim issued a written statement.
“Our family thanks the LAPD, SDPD, FBI and the Mexican authorities for their work in finding and apprehending Tobias Summers. Throughout this ordeal, they’ve been working around the clock hunting this man — not only for justice for our daughter, but to make sure he’s unable to hurt anyone again.
Since the onset of this ordeal, the LAPD and the FBI have been spectacular with us and our daughter. We can’t begin to describe how their compassion and professionalism got us through that first day. There were so many officers and agents and so few names we thought to record that to name any in particular would be an injustice to the rest.
We would also like to thank the police officers who first found our daughter, the paramedics who responded and staff at West Hills Hospital. You all helped my daughter feel safe and secure when she needed it the most.
Lastly, as a family we would also like to thank everyone — family, friends, members of our church and strangers who have offered prayers, good wishes and thoughts. We’re humbled by the outpouring of affection and concern for our daughter. It’s not only helped us get through the last few weeks, but our daughter as well.
In closing, we request that you respect our desire for privacy and understand that it’s for our daughter.”
Summers, a felon and reputed gang member, was captured Wednesday morning at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Las Misiones, a small community about 200 miles south of the U.S. border in Mexico, authorities said.
He was taken to a Los Angeles jail later that day, and was being held in lieu of $19-million bail.
Summers was charged earlier this month with three dozen counts, including sexual assault, kidnapping and first-degree burglary in connection with the March 27 incident.
A felony complaint alleges that he broke into the girl’s home and used a knife to abduct her, then committed numerous sexual acts on the child and took nude photos of her.
The girl was discovered missing about 3:40 a.m. by her mother, who heard a noise and went to check on her daughter.
Dozens of law enforcement officials quickly joined the search, which ended about 12 hours later when the girl was found wandering in a parking lot several miles away.
She was barefoot, dazed and appeared to be wearing different clothes than those she wore when taken from her home.
Days later, Los Angeles police publicly identified Summers as their primary suspect. A federal complaint alleges that he crossed the border into Tecate, Mexico, “within several hours” of that announcement.
Officials did not provide details about his movements in Mexico, but LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said a phone tip received late Tuesday night narrowed the focus of the search.
The FBI relayed that information to Mexican authorities, who made the arrest.
Baja police said Summers was surprised and frightened by the sight of officers and taken into custody without incident.
Authorities confirmed Summers’ identity through a Superman logo tattoo on his chest.
“I’m very happy that we caught this trash,” said Alfredo Arenas, commander of the Baja California state police fugitive squad.
“I always make a point to capture people that have sex with children. Because if given the opportunity, they will rape a Mexican child.”
Arenas said Summers checked into the rehab facility under a fake name and, judging by its remote location, said: “Obviously, this guy wasn’t interested in getting rehabbed, just trying to hide out.”
Mexican authorities had distributed a “wanted” poster and police were alerted in cities including Tijuana, Tecate, Ensenada and Rosarito Beach. The FBI also issued the $25,000 reward, Beck said.
Beck said he was “extremely pleased” at the arrest, but cautioned that “there’s a long way left to go in this case.”
“We can never make whole the lives of that family and the young girl after this horrific event,” Beck said later at the news conference.
“But we can and we will and we do make plain to anybody in this city that thinks they can commit that kind of crime and remain free after doing so — we can make sure that they know that is not true.”
“We will hunt you,” he said. “We will find you. You cannot hide.”
The girl’s family declined requests for interviews through the LAPD, but her mother told KTLA that she was “relieved that he’s been captured and glad that he won’t be doing this to anyone else.”
Also charged in connection with the case is Daniel Martinez, who pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and burglary counts earlier this month.
Martinez, 29, was arrested two miles from the girl’s home and was described by Los Angeles police as a secondary suspect in the crime. If convicted, he faces up to 12 years in prison.
Police do not believe Martinez initiated the kidnapping or participated in the assault, but was believed to be the driver in what authorities said began as a burglary.
Both men have extensive criminal histories, though neither is a registered sex offender. It is unclear how long either man has spent behind bars.
—KTLA/Los Angeles Times