Man behind bars after stealing car with 3-year-old inside

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FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — A man is behind bars after police say he stole a car with three-year-old Jessie Sanchez inside. It happened Monday night in Merced, right outside of the family’s home. 

Merced police say 34-year-old Hardev Singh was in Jessie’s neighborhood when he spotted the car. Jessie was inside.

RELATED: Merced Police searching for suspect who stole car with 3-year-old inside

On Tuesday, we spoke with Jessie and her mother after the terrifying ordeal. They both were still shaken but Jessie was in pretty good spirits. She told us in her own words what happened.

“My mom looked at the screen door and then somebody got in the car and then drove away,” Jessie said.

Jessie remembers the scary night she had. 

“(reporter) Were you scared? (Sanchez) yeahhh, and it was a thief, (reporter) it was a thief?,  (Sanchez) yeah and then the police officers came to save me.”

The mother, Melissa Foster was still in shock. “It all still feels so unreal, I don’t even know what to say when I think about it,” Foster said.

Foster says she did not leave her daughter alone.

She says they were getting ready to leave when she stepped onto the porch, which is just feet away, to grab her bag. That’s when Singh jumped in and drove off.

Police say Singh was coming from Richmond and heading to Fresno when he got into an altercation with whoever he was with and was dropped off in Merced. 

“Upon questioning Mr. Singh, he confessed to the entire incident. We do not believe he had any intentions to harm the child. We don’t believe he actually initially knew the child was in the vehicle but within 30 seconds, he knew the child was in the vehicle,” said Merced Police Capt. Jay Struble.

An Amber Alert was issued around 8 p.m., police say about 30 minutes later the car was spotted. 

Singh abandoned the car with the toddler inside at the Chevron, near Roberton Boulevard, in Chowchilla. Jessie was not harmed.

Police say Singh had to have left the little girl alone in the car for about an hour and a half.

We were the only news station there when Jessie was reunited with her family.

Police say Singh took off on foot, but credit the Chowchilla Police Department for finding Singh Tuesday morning. 

“It was actually an off-duty Chowchilla police officer that had worked last night but was on his way home and saw the subject, Mr. Singh who is pictured here to my right, in the area where the vehicle was actually left last night,” Struble said.

Foster and her daughter thankful to all who helped rescue her.

“Thank youuuu, yeah for getting you home to mommy, yeahhh.”

Police say Singh was booked into the Merced County Jail.

RELATED: Suspect in custody after car stolen with young girl inside, police say

He is facing several charges, including kidnapping and carjacking because police say Jessie’s mother chased after the car on foot.

Police say Singh is also facing Child Endangerment for abandoning the car with Jessie inside, police estimate Singh left her for at least an hour and a half.

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