Nearly three weeks after a 2-year-old girl was kidnapped from a car wash in Gardena, police on Wednesday said that a tip from a neighbor led to the arrest of a Torrance man on suspicion of committing the crime, which authorities said included sexual assault.
Michael David Ikeler, 36, was taken into custody a week after the April 2 kidnapping.
It was not immediately clear why police announced the arrest nearly two weeks after Ikeler was taken into custody. Inmate records showed he was in jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, and was being held on $1 million bail.
Ikeler was charged with one count of lewd act upon a child with a kidnapping allegation, and two counts of oral copulation or sexual penetration with child 10 years old or younger, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Wednesday. He entered a not guilty plea on April 13.
The DA’s office had not previously announced the arraignment or the charges against the suspect.
Police also on Wednesday released edited audio of the child’s frantic mother calling 911 to report the incident. She was crying, and the dispatcher asked her take a deep breath.
“I heard her scream … I heard her say, ‘Mom,'” the mother said. “I turned around … and she was gone.”
With a quavering voice, the mother described her child as having “a little ponytail” and a “little backpack.”
Listen Here: Mother’s 911 Call in April 2 Kidnapping
The girl’s disappearance from a self-serve car wash at 14929 Western Ave. about 5 p.m. April 2 launched a massive search that police called an “unprecedented response.”
Nearly 2 1/2 hours later, the toddler was found about 8 miles away in an empty, dark parking lot in Cudahy. She was hospitalized with unspecified injuries, police said at the time.
A woman who found the child said the little girl was naked and kept covering her eyes, appearing to be in shock. When police arrived, the child appeared to be afraid to go with the male officers and clung to the woman, she said.
“I haven’t seen a crime like this in the 20 years I’ve been in Gardena,” Gardena police Lt. Steve Prendergast said a day after the girl was found.
Detectives worked around the clock to find the kidnapper responsible for the “horrific attack,” a news release from the Gardena Police Department issued Wednesday stated.
A tip received from a neighbor on April 5 led investigators to a person of interest in Torrance. Ikeler owns a white Nissan Altima that matched the description of the vehicle used in the kidnapping, Gardena police said.
One of his neighbors had seen news reports about the vehicle sought in the kidnapping and became suspicious when she saw Ikeler altering his vehicle.
“Some changes were made to it — the license plates were gone and the tint was removed,” Prendergast said Wednesday.
Ikeler was arrested in connection with the kidnapping and sexual assault of the girl four days after police received the tip.
Two witnesses placed Ikeler at the scene of the crime, according to police.
DNA evidence also linked Ikeler to the crime, the release stated.
Ikeler was due back in Torrance Superior Court on April 27, according to the DA’s office.
No booking photo of him was released.