AMSTERDAM, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — A Merced woman was arrested on multiple charges early Wednesday morning after crashing her vehicle with her daughter inside, stealing another vehicle, and then leaving her child along a riverbank before ending up at someone’s doorstep without any clothes, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Dispatch reported a naked woman had walked into a business in the area of Shaffer Road, north of Oakdale Road, around 12:30 a.m., saying she was involved in a wreck and left her 4-year-old child in the vehicle while she sought help, said spokesman Eric Zuniga.
Officers responded to the area and contacted the woman.
She told the CHP she left her child “somewhere” and could not tell the officers the location, Zuniga said. She said that the child was left in a field and not in the vehicle.
The officers were joined by other emergency responders to help search for the missing child.
Zuniga said the CHP found that the woman, identified as Courtney Renee Hill, 28, of Merced, along with her daughter, had been involved in a solo vehicle crash near Amsterdam Road and Youd Road.
Hill walked to a residence in the area of 10655 Amsterdam Road after the crash and stole a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, according to authorities. She collided with the garage in the residence before driving north along Amsterdam for about a mile.
She left the Jeep and began walking away from the vehicle with her child in a northwesterly direction along a canal bank.
Hill and her child traversed the canal, several fields and crossed the Merced River — a total distance of about 1.5 miles, Zuniga said. She left her child on the riverbank and told her to stay in that location while she looked for help.
Hopes for finding the child were diminishing as the night went on, despite help from a CHP helicopter.
Officers made a last-ditch effort and went down a steep embankment, crossed a 700-yard orchard to the Merced River.
They yelled out for the child and heard a faint, “I’m here,” Zuniga said. The child could barely be seen in the tall grass on the other side of the river.
She was found sitting on driftwood near the river’s edge, cold and shivering, but in good spirits, the CHP said.
Officers helped each other to cross the river and safely retrieve the child.
Zuniga said the child was transferred to Merced County Protective Services.
Hill was arrested and booked into the Merced County Jail on charges of child endangerment, auto theft, hit and run and resisting/obstructing an officer.