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California girl found in Utah; man arrested

SHARE California girl found in Utah; man arrested

A nationwide search for a 5-year-old Riverside, Calif., girl ended Monday afternoon in south-central Utah when a Richfield resident reported seeing the girl and her alleged abductor at an LDS Church ward house.

Young Anabella Clark was found safe and initially appeared unharmed, according to Riverside police spokesman Felix Medina in an interview with the Deseret News Monday night. However, detectives will interview the child to learn if she was mistreated during the ordeal.

Charles William Mix, 48, was taken to the Sevier County Jail on Monday night. Southern California authorities will begin an extradition process to transport him to the Riverside County jail for investigation of kidnapping, Medina said.

Clark was taken from her home sometime before 8:30 a.m. Monday. Her father, who had primary custody of her, found a letter on Monday morning allegedly penned by Mix, his roommate.

"He (Mix) was displeased with the way the girl was being treated by the father. We don't know if that speculated child abuse or neglect. That's something our investigators are going to have to talk to the suspect about," Medina said.

An AMBER Alert was initially issued in California, Medina said. They were looking for Clark, a small child for her age — 3 feet, 40 pounds, light brown hair, hazel eyes with a small scar above her right eyebrow.

Mix was described as 6 feet 3 inches, 350 pounds, long gray hair and a beard.

Authorities originally believed Mix and the girl were traveling in a van until they discovered the van parked at a Riverside Greyhound bus station, Medina said.

The Associated Press reported detectives found crude drawings, some of them of nearly naked bodies, and misspelled words in black marker scrawled all over the inside of the van but do not believe it was Anabella's writing.

Investigators then learned a maroon GMC truck had been taken from the Chino Airport, Medina said.

"We believe that's where (Mix) used to work," Medina said.

About 2 p.m. Pacific time, authorities issued a nationwide AMBER Alert because they did not know where Mix and the girl were going.

About 4 p.m. Mountain time, Richfield resident Lisa Hilton was taking her children to the house of her sister-in-law to drop them off for baby-sitting while she ran some errands.

She drove by a ward house at 400 West and 1000 South and noticed an older man with a very small child. The older man was sitting under a tree on the church's lawn, she said, and the child was running around and playing. The girl appeared to be eating fast food from Wendy's, Hilton said.

"He didn't appear to be a person to have a little girl with him. I'm not trying to judge people. But it didn't look right," Hilton said.

She dropped her children off at her sister-in-law's house, and while in the driveway before leaving to do her errands, she called Richfield police and told them of what she had seen.

"I hesitated. I wondered if I should be calling," Hilton said.

Police asked if she had a description of the truck she saw parked in the church's parking lot. She told them she would have to pass the truck to leave the residential neighborhood and would check, upon which she noticed the truck had a California license plate. About that same time she saw a police vehicle pull up.

About an hour later, she received a call from a Richfield police officer congratulating her for finding the missing child. "I broke down and started crying. As a mother, my heart was totally broken. I'm shocked and relieved that she is OK," said Hilton, the mother of three children between the ages of 1 and 11-years old.

Hilton had no idea there was a national AMBER Alert for the child. "It was a total fluke that I happened to drive by that church," Hilton said. "And I was running about 15 minutes late."

The girl is in protective custody. The Riverside police are arranging to bring Anabella's parents to Utah as soon as possible, Medina said.

E-MAIL: lhancock@desnews.com

The Associated Press contributed to this story.