MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Four juvenile suspects were charged after allegedly stealing a vehicle with a 4-year-old St. Jude patient inside Thursday, police said.
The juveniles — ages 15, 16 and two age 17 — were charged with especially aggravated kidnapping, theft of property, evading arrest and possession of a firearm.
All four appeared in Juvenile Court on Friday afternoon. Because of the charges, all four were detained and will be back in court May 10.
According to police, officers were called to the Shell gas station in the 2900 block of Poplar Avenue Thursday afternoon and were told a 4-year-old had been kidnapped. The adult reportedly left the child and their keys inside a gray Nissan Rogue, and when they returned both were gone.
The child was safely recovered in the area of Oakdale and Avery and four suspects were detained.
Memphis Police identified the child as Samaria Becerra. A family member says Samaria and her parents are from Michigan. They were in town so that Samaria could receive treatment from St. Jude.
Samaria’s frantic grandfather back in Michigan went online, googled Spanish-speaking radio stations in Memphis and found Ivette Butron and asked for help.
Butron is the cofounder of Butron Media, Memphis’ only Spanish speaking multi-media company, which owns two radios stations that serve the Latino community and, in this case, a family from hundreds of miles away.
“He was really scared. His voice sounded nervous,” Butron said. “He said ‘My son is alone in Memphis. We don’t know anybody. Please help my son. Somebody stole the car. My grandkid is inside. So please go and help them.’”
Butron says the grandfather was desperate. Butron got in her car and went to the gas station where the parents were while police were on a brief, intense citywide search.
She remembers a Memphis Police officer saying the words they’d all been praying to hear.
“One officer from MPD said ‘We found the girl, we found the girl,’ and everybody started running,” Butron said. “We followed the Memphis Police car and found this house and also the girl.”
Friday morning, Butron spoke with Samaria’s father.
“The son is more calm, and he is happy that his daughter is okay, and they’re ready to leave Memphis,” Butron said. “He told me he’s just going to get in his car and going back to my hometown.”
St. Jude released a statement to WREG, saying, “We can confirm that she is a patient at St. Jude, but because of patient privacy and confidentiality law, we are not allowed to share any other information. But we can tell you that the health and safety of our patients and families is always our highest priority.”
As for Butron, she’s proud her radio stations were there to help the family and says we can all learn a lesson about leaving children alone in cars.
“I know how hard it is, the situation in Memphis and how dangerous it is,” Butron said. “This is a big lesson for everybody, but also for my Latino community that we have to be really careful with the situation, and we don’t have to leave the kids inside the car.”
All four of the teens charged were scheduled to appear in court Friday morning.