West Seattle Crime Watch followup: Charges filed in Highland Park car theft/kidnap

(August 27 photo by BETTINA HANSEN/THE SEATTLE TIMES, republished by permission)
4:06 PM: The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has just filed charges against Estevan Sanchez, accused of stealing an SUV from outside the Seamart store in Highland Park last Wednesday, with its owner’s baby daughter in the back seat; the car was ditched in the middle of a street in Greenbridge, with the baby still inside. Sanchez, a 25-year-old Highland Park resident, is charged with second-degree kidnapping and theft of a motor vehicle. As first reported here the night of his arrest, he already had warrants out in connection with domestic-violence cases involving his longtime girlfriend – one relating to an incident this past June in which he allegedly stole her car. “His dangerous and callous actions demonstrate a total disregard for human life and the safety of the entire community,” prosecutors write in the charging documents. More to come.

ADDED 4:24 PM: More from the charging papers’ narrative, signed by deputy prosecuting attorney Ian Ith:

… In this case, Mr. Sanchez looked a pleading father in the eyes and then heartlessly drove away in the terrified man’s car, his 10-month-old daughter still strapped inside. Mr. Sanchez then drove nearly two miles away and abandoned the baby girl inside the car along a White Center side street. …

At the time of the defendant’s conduct in this case, he had two warrants for his arrest for recent criminal activity, one of them also involving a child.

He was wanted on a $75,000 warrant from this court for Domestic Violence Felony Violation of a Court Order and Taking a Motor Vehicle Without Permission (second degree). In that case, Mr. Sanchez is accused of body-slamming his ex-girlfriend and burning her with an electric stun gun before knocking down her 11-year-old daughter and driving off in the ex-girlfriend’s car. He later drove the stolen car into a power pole and ran off.

Mr. Sanchez was also wanted on a $5,000 warrant from Seattle District Court for failing to appear in June for probation violations on an assault (fourth-degree)/domestic-violence conviction for slapping and pulling the hair of the same woman in January 2013.

A month before that incident, in December 2012, he repeatedly and violently assaulted the same woman, including punching her and bashing her head into the dashboard of her car as she drove down the street, causing the vehicle to slam into and topple a light pole. He was convicted of two counts of assault (fourth degree) and one count of reckless endangerment/domestic violence.

The court documents in the defendant’s domestic-violence cases show that he has a fast-accelerating addiction to methamphetamine that is contributing to the violence and lawlessness that he now has turned upon total strangers, including a 10-month-old girl.

The charging documents also include a more detailed narrative from police, with more specifics about how the crime unfolded. We’re transcribing that next.

ADDED 4:50 PM: From the narrative by SPD Det. Nathan Janes:

(The victim) was out and about getting errands done when he stopped at the local store a few blocks away from his house. This store is the Seamart store at 1513 SW Holden Street. (He) was driving their 2013 Ford Edge with his ten-month-old daughter secured in the back seat in a car seat.

(His) Ford Edge is one of the newer vehicles that does not require a physical key placed in the ignition switch to start the car. His car has the newer system where the key fob associated with that car is integral to the functioning of the car. The car can sense its key fob being in proximity to the car, and must be near or inside of the car for the car to start. Several times in the past, (he) has used a function of the car where he can leave the car running to keep the air conditioning or heat on in the car while out of the car. In these instances, when (he) gets out of the car with the key fob and walks away, the car keeps running but the doors lock. Also, if someone inside the car were to attempt to shift the vehicle out of park, while the key fob is outside of the car, the car will not shift out of park. Instead it will turn off the motor. When (he) pulled up to the Sea Mart, he was planning on being gone a short time to grab one item inside and then be right back to the car. He was going to leave his daughter in the car with the A/C running, but with the doors locked, while he was inside.

(He) pulled into the Seamart parking lot and parked where he could see the car. He got out, leaving it running, and started inside. When he turned back, he saw suspect Sanchez walking around his car, and then getting into the driver’s seat of his car. At once he realized the car had not locked itself, maybe because he was still close to the car, less than 20 feet away. (He) ran to the driver’s door of his car (and said), “Hey, my baby is in that car. Don’t take my car.” As (he) said this, Sanchez paused for a second as (they) locked eyes. Sanchez put the car into gear to drive away. (The victim) tried to get in front of the car to keep it from leaving, but Sanchez was able to drive out of the parking lot and drive away.

(The victim) believed his car would turn off the motor as (Sanchez) drove away from him and the key fob, which he still had in his possession. This did not occur; the car did not turn itself off. Sanchez was able to steal the car with (the baby) still in the back seat and drive away.

The interaction … was video-recorded by a security video system owned by the Seamart store. In addition, the clerk at the store witnessed the whole incident. He saw Sanchez look in the victim’s vehicle, open the door and drive away.

Seattle Police patrol officers responded to the 911 calls about this kidnapping and theft of a motor vehicle. (The victim) had gotten a good look at Sanchez and described him to the officers. The officers put out on the police radio the description and license plate of Chris’s stolen vehicle and the physical description of Sanchez …

About fifteen minutes later, King County Sheriff’s Deputies located (the) stolen Ford Edge at 8th Avenue SW and SW 99th Street. (The baby) was still safely strapped in the car seat. She was not hurt. Witnesses saw Sanchez leave the stolen Ford and flee.

Police officers converged on the area attempting to locate Sanchez. By this time, due to information from various witnesses and from Sanchez’s own family members, officers had tentatively identified Sanchez as the suspect who stole the car and kidnapped (the baby). Sanchez’s family said they had not seen him for a couple of hours, and that he was wearing a black shirt and tan pants. On their mobile data computers inside the patrol cars, officers were able to see a photograph of Sanchez.

Seattle police detectives Wade and Thomas were working a two-man car together and were engaged in the search for Sanchez. They too saw a photograph (of him) on their computer. At about 4:17 pm, they saw Sanchez .. walking north on the east side of 17th Avenue SW. It appeared to the detectives that (he) noticed them. (He) went inside the Taqueria Guaymas Mexican restaurant at 1622 SW Roxbury.

Inside (the restaurant), (an employee) was working the counter. She saw Sanchez walk inside. (He) stood at the counter holding a piece of paper. (He) said, “The police are coming,” and stuffed the paper inside his waistband. In uniform, detectives Wade and Thomas entered the restaurant and took Sanchez into custody. As they were handcuffing (him, he) repeatedly said, “I’m sorry.” He was cooperative.

The narrative mentions the warrants already out for Sanchez’s arrest, and that the baby’s father was driven to the restaurant, where he identified Sanchez as the person who stole his car and kidnapped his baby. The narrative continues:

Sanchez was advised of his Miranda rights. While being driven to the police precinct, Det. Wade spoke with Sanchez. He asked (him) why he stole the car. (He) denied stealing it. He said he had been panhandling since he woke up that morning. He said he woke up at his grandma’s house, but that he was really transient and homeless. He said he used his panhandling money to buy cigarettes. Later, at the precinct, when told what he was being arrested for, Sanchez said, “Bro, I’d never hurt a kid. I need to talk to a lawyer.”

Sanchez’s bail remains set at $500,000, by order of Superior Court Jim Rogers, in this case, in addition to the $75,000+ bail for the other warrants. His arraignment is set for September 15th.

15 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch followup: Charges filed in Highland Park car theft/kidnap"

  • ShakingMyHead September 2, 2014 (4:40 pm)

    People who see their own partners as objects and punching bags are unlikely to look at a stranger’s child with more compassion. What a relief the baby was found safe, and the suspect apprehended quickly.

  • Wait for it... September 2, 2014 (5:11 pm)

    Let’s see what this guy’s plea bargain is…and how long it takes for him to be back on the streets of West Seattle. Given recent history and the response to other local offenders, I expect him to be back among us soon enough terrorizing the neighborhood. Nice to see a significant bail amount on this one, but I still don’t expect to see a significant sentence. I hope I’m wrong…this time he proved he’s dangerous to just about everyone.

  • Jim P. September 2, 2014 (6:28 pm)

    Really bad security on these fancy car fobs it would seem.

    In many states it’s illegal to leave your car engine running unattended and this is some of the reason why I’d say.

    Not blaming the victim here, the guy who stole the car and kid is scum and was likely watching for just this situation.

    Just suggesting that there may be better ways to make sure one’s car and kids are secure.

  • 935 September 2, 2014 (6:59 pm)

    such stupidity

  • cjboffoli September 2, 2014 (7:52 pm)

    Actually, it is illegal in the State of Washington (RCW 46.61.600) as is leaving a child in an unattended, running vehicle (RCW 46.61.685).
    To all of these people who I see freely doling out cash to panhandlers on the street this person is part of the population you are supporting with your misplaced philanthropy.

  • ACG September 2, 2014 (7:56 pm)

    Did something not work right with the car? I would be interested to hear from a ford dealer if their cars really can be driven away without the key fob in it- or if this man unfortunately had a car that wasn’t functioning properly.

  • Tbone September 2, 2014 (9:49 pm)


    I concur completely with you.

  • Eric September 3, 2014 (5:13 am)

    A bit off topic, but are we becoming that lazy of a society where the wonderful new features in cars is pushing a button? Has it really become that much of a hassle to put a key into the ignition and turn it to start a car?

    With that said, we can see what can happen when you:

    1. Leave a car running unattended

    2. Do so because you rely on this “wonderful new technology” and believe it will come to the rescue and kill the engine if something bad does happen.

    I sure hope they throw the book at the suspect, with all of the other stuff he has done especially.

  • clinker September 3, 2014 (11:49 am)


    With Priuses if the car is in “running” mode and you take the fob away, the car will remain running. A warning message on the dashboard will indicate it. This is a safety feature. You wouldn’t want the car to suddenly stop running if somehow the fob malfunctioned or was lost.
    Other keyless or fob-activated cars must work the same way.

  • cjboffoli September 3, 2014 (1:17 pm)

    Eric, I’m not sure it would be fair to construe the use of this feature as laziness. It does seem more like a trend to have cars with push-button start and chipped key fobs. I wonder how long it will last.
    My new car came with this feature and I’m not sure if I would have sought it out. But I have to say that when I’m walking to the car with an armful of parcels or a heavy bundle of shirts from the cleaners, it is convenient to be able to simply touch the door handle and have the car open, without having to fumble to put a key in a tiny little slot (especially in the rain). And considering the number of car prowled people I read about in the West Seattle Blog – who admit that they forgot to lock their doors – the ability for a car to lock itself when the driver walks away is value added. My car’s key radius is about 3 feet. It sounds like the wider radius of the Ford involved in this incident was part of the problem.
    Having to put a key into the ignition certainly is a “wonderful old technology.” Though with GM having recalled millions of cars this year due to keyed ignition defects that have caused crashes and fatalities, it also has its deficiencies.

  • Eric September 3, 2014 (3:57 pm)

    Thanks for the info CJ, ok so the FOB is a little more than the convenience of pushing a button to start the car. I get it now. Though I would not imply that the push button is superior and without the possibility of being faulty by using GM´s scenario. That is obviously GM´s ineptness and not do to the overall design of the ignition system itself. Besides, this story shows that the FOB system can be just as faulty too. Anything on a car can be recalled

  • Norman September 3, 2014 (8:40 pm)

    There used to be a time when a person could leave their window open at night and even leave their cars keys in the car that time is gone, the sooner people realize that the less this will happen.

  • Alistair September 4, 2014 (7:32 am)

    The fob-based approach is, in theory, more secure. It doesn’t rely on a key that can be easily duplicated, and uses a “rolling code” (simplistically like the one on your garage remote, that always changes) so that it can’t be “scanned” and copied. Sensors in the car determine if the key is inside, or outside, the car.
    The downside is that some of the systems have a fairly broad range. There was an episode of Top Gear where they showed taking a Dodge Challenger from outside a restaurant where the keyholder was inside eating…. although I’m sure there’s a degree of creative license there.
    The system on my BMW works the same way as the Prius one above – remove the key and you can still drive, as long as the transmission doesn’t enter PARK or the e-brake isn’t put on.
    If you’re nervous while in a store – “simply” wrapping a piece of tinfoil around your keyfob will comfortably block the signal.
    In my experience, the door “unlock” mechanism is markedly more fussy about proximity than the “engine start” button – so simply locking the doors makes it all so much harder.
    Either way – so glad that the child here was unharmed, and that the thief was caught.

  • Jodie September 11, 2014 (1:40 pm)

    Estevan Sanchez…..he’s just here for a better life, right?

    • WSB September 11, 2014 (1:52 pm)

      We don’t usually approve comments that seem to assume anyone with a non-Anglo name is not American – that’s racist, and it’s against our rules. But I guess I have to say it once in a while: A non-Anglo name doesn’t mean you’re not a citizen. In this case, publicly available voter records show he’s a registered voter and has been since the age of eligibility (getting convicted of a felony will change that, though). You need citizenship to register.
      Crime is a complicated-enough problem without insinuating or injecting racism of any kind. Thanks.

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