Woman Who Stole Car with Baby Inside Fails to Turn Herself In

VAN NUYS (CNS) - Police today found a stolen Infiniti containing an 11-month-old boy still strapped into his car seat, but the woman who took the sedan remained at large. The car was taken about 10 a.m. from the 15400 block of Gault Street, near Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys, in what the Los Angeles Police Department initially believed to be a carjacking. 

Authorities began a massive search, releasing the baby's picture and describing the sedan as a white 2001 Infiniti G-20, license number 4SDK433. About noon, an ``alert citizen'' spotted the car abandoned near where it had been stolen, and the child, whose name is Leo, was safe in the vehicle, said LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza. Paramedics took the child, who appeared to be OK, to a hospital for an evaluation and he was later reunited with his mother, police said. 

Police said the boy's mother had gone to a babysitter's residence to pick up another one of her children, and had left the car unattended with the engine running and Leo inside.The suspect, identified as Maria Elizabeth De La Torre, confessed over the phone to taking the vehicle and said she would turn herself in, but did not, and subsequent calls to her number went immediately into voicemail, police said. 

De La Torre is known in the area and apparently stole the car in a ``crime of opportunity'' and may not have realized the boy was inside, police said. The boy's mother said she does not know the woman. De La Torre, whose image was released by police after she failed to turn herself in, is now wanted on suspicion of kidnapping and grand theft auto. A detective said a felony warrant would be issued for her arrest. 

De La Torre frequents the area of Sepulveda Boulevard and Sherman Way, police said. She is described as Hispanic, 5 feet tall, 130 pounds with black hair and brown eyes and was wearing blue jeans and a pink shirt when last seen. Anyone with information regarding De La Torre's whereabouts was urged to call the LAPD's Van Nuys Station at (818) 374-9500. 

After-hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to (877) LAPD-24-7.Anonymous tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS.

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