Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 | 6:53 p.m.
After 21 hours, 17-year-old Melissa Duran’s kidnapping nightmare ended Saturday.
Henderson Police found Duran bound, blindfolded and alone in a bathroom inside an apartment on Flower Avenue, near Stewart and Eastern avenues. By 4:20 a.m., SWAT officers had delivered search warrants, rescued Duran and arrested her two suspected captors, Alejandro Manuel Sanchez-Sanchez, 25, and Cesar Sanchez, 30.
Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers said Duran was unharmed physically, but emotionally, she was terrified. Moers said the suspects were found in two other apartments at the complex. They were arrested unarmed and without a fight. He said the suspects might have a connection with Duran’s father’s landscaping business, but he could not comment on if they had previous criminal history.
“This is a very rare occurrence to happen in Henderson,” Moers said. “We do not believe this was a random act. We believe there is a connection from the suspects to the family.”
The family declined to comment, but they issued a statement through family friend, Cece Navarrette, thanking police, friends and the community for their support and help in the situation.
“(Melissa) is very, very grateful for all the support,” Navarrette said. “We’ve been showing her our (social media posts). She is not going to be posting anything, but she’s thankful for all the support.”
The rescue capped off a search that began at 7:30 a.m. Friday. Two men abducted Duran from her home on the 300 block of Esquina Drive near the intersection of Warm Springs Road and Arroyo Grande Boulevard. They later demanded a ransom for her safe return, Moers said.
An Amber Alert was issued and police began tracking the suspects through a variety of leads, the most important of which was the suspects’ red-and-blue getaway car.
Police found the car in the Sunrise Mountain area. It had been burned, which they attribute to an effort by the suspects to destroy the evidence. On Google Maps, a 2009 image of the complex where Duran was found shows a car similar to the one used in the incident.
“Anytime anybody gets taken we always worry about the longer an incident goes, the worse the scenario can get,” Moers said. “This is a credit to those officers that worked straight through the night.”
While police searched, family and friends tried to decipher unanswerable questions like "Why Melissa." Jessica Favela, Jennifer Arzola and Jessica Messer, friends of Duran, stayed with the family from 7:30 a.m. to just after midnight pacing, crying and praying.
“I didn’t know who would want to do that to her,” said Arzola, who has been close friends with Duran since fifth grade.
Navarrette remembered Duran’s father saying, “This doesn’t happen in the United States.”
“A lot of it was surreal,” Navarrette said. “I felt like it was just hurry up and wait.”
Favela said when they heard that Duran had returned home, they jumped into their cars and drove to the house. When they saw Duran smiling, the girls collapsed into hugs.
“She was very chipper,” Faviola said. “She made us feel better.”
Green Valley High School principal Jeff Horn said the school and staff is relieved to hear of Duran’s safety. It was the second incident involving a student in just over a week to occur. Senior William Mootz drowned in a flooded wash on Aug. 22.
“I know our staff and students are so happy that she is home safe and home with parents,” Horn said. “Just thrilled and relieved. To think something this tragic happen again so close to William — tough start for us, but we’re thrilled she’s home safe.”
“We were just glad she is back and nothing was wrong,” Messer said. “She’s the same person as she was before.”
Moers said the suspects were booked into Henderson Detention Center and charged with kidnapping, extortion, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit extortion exchange. Both are held without bail.
Metro Police also assisted in efforts to find Duran.