SANTA ROSA, N.M. (KRQE) – Just hours after police sent an Amber Alert for a Santa Rosa toddler, the 3-year-old girl was found safe with someone she knows.
On Tuesday afternoon, Merleah Guinn waved at KRQE News 13’s camera with teddy bear in hand as she was loaded onto an ambulance outside State Police headquarters in Albuquerque.
It all started when Xavier Guinn called officers after he woke up and could not find Merleah. State Police believed the 3-year-old was abducted Monday night. But State Police said it was the way in which Guinn was taken that had them worried.
“She unlawfully forced entry into the residence and had taken the child,” Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo explained the abduction. “It was a very serious situation due to the fact that in the middle of the night.”
Officers later found that Merleah’s mother, 34-year-old Charity Chino, had broken into the house and took the child. State Police says the mother was not authorized to have contact with Merleah or her father.
Then, just before noon, police cancelled the alert and said the girl was found safe. State Police found Chino and Merleah in Tohajiilee on the Navajo Reservation. They said when police got in contact with her, Chino voluntarily agreed to turn herself in. But they said it was the Amber Alert that lead them to Chino.
“It lead us pretty quickly to where we needed to go,” Armijo said. “Based on what we learned at the scene and what we learned from interviews there were some factors inside the case that this child was believed to be in serious danger.”
Chino later admitted to breaking into Xavier Guinn’s house and taking the girl.
Police have obtained an arrest warrant for Chino for charges of aggravated stalking, child endangerment, kidnapping, and burglary.
Merleah is temporarily in custody of Children, Youth, and Families Department. State police could not comment on why Chino was ordered to stay away from her daughter.