A mother is suspected of plotting the escape of her 12-year-old daughter and the girl's foster sister from their Southern California foster home before abandoning the younger girl in a hot parked car for several hours in Miami.
Robin Lemus, 8, was found unharmed Tuesday in her foster parents' Lexus at a McDonald's parking lot in Oklahoma, said Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy Denise Fuchs. The search continued for Lemus' foster sister Estephanie Flores and Flores' biological mother Iris Pineda Zavala, 38, of Monrovia.
Zavala is suspected of orchestrating the girls' escape Monday from their foster parents' home in San Dimas, a suburb east of Los Angeles, said Lt. Michael Rodriguez. Officials said Flores stole her foster parents' Lexus and drove the younger girl to meet Zavala and an unidentified 18-year-old male at an unknown location.
Rodriguez said Zavala is a suspect, but the sheriff's office would not confirm whether an arrest warrant was issued.
Rodriguez said he did not know why Lemus was abandoned.
“I think they probably thought, ‘Uh oh, they're on to us and we've got this young lady here who wasn't part of the plan. … That's just my guess,” Rodriguez said.
Authorities said they found the younger girl Tuesday morning after getting a tip. Miami police said the girl was left alone in the car for about three hours in 95 degree heat.
Michael Bishay, an attorney for Robin Lemus' family, told KCAL9 they were “overjoyed” their daughter was found.
“You should have heard their screams and shouts when they called my cell phone just saying, ‘They found her, they found her,” Bishay said. Lemus' parents “can't wait to see her, hold her and love her again.”
The girl was in protective custody in Oklahoma and will remain in foster care when she is returned to California.
Rodriguez said Zavala could be charged with child abduction, kidnapping, child abandonment and child endangerment.