MIAMI, OK — A cross-country search for a12-year-old girl and her biological mother ended Wednesday when the pair were taken into police custody in Tennessee, a Miami police detective said Wednesday.
Miami Police Detective Chris Leamon said Estephanie Flores and her mother Ines Pineda Zavala, 38, of Monrovia, Calif. were found on a Greyhound bus in Chattanooga, Tenn. Zavala was arrested and awaiting an extradition hearing. Estephanie was placed into protective custody.
Authorities believe the mother and daughter were traveling with 8-year-old Robin Lemus, who may have been an unintended part of a California woman’s plot to remove her 12-year-old daughter from a southern California foster home.
Robin was found unharmed Tuesday in her foster parents’ stolen Lexus, Miami Police Chief Gary Anderson said
Lemus remains in protective custody after she was found in a hot car at a McDonald’s parking lot in Miami.
“I spent time with her (Lemus),” Leamon said. “She is in great spirits and looking forward to going back home.”
Robin, wearing a yellow tank top, black shorts and pink slippers, had been in the car about three hours in 95-degree heat. The front window of the car had been rolled down and the keys were still in the ignition. The 1998 Lexus belongs to Martha Santoyo and had been reported stolen.
Robin told police officers she, her foster sister and Zavala slept in the vehicle before the mother and daughter got out around 9 a.m., leaving her alone and without any food or water.
Authorities think Flores stole her foster parents’ car and drove Robin to meet Zavala and an unidentified 18-year-old man at an unknown location. At that point, Zavala took the car and the girls and left California, police think.
Felicio Lemus, Robin’s biological father, said he received a text message before the girls went missing complaining that their foster mom was being mean.
Robin was later identified as a runaway child from California, rather than a missing child, according to a Miami police report.