Orange County

‘It was anguish not knowing’: 3-year-old girl reunited with family in Apopka after being abducted

APOPKA, Fla. — A 3-year-old girl was reunited with her family Monday night hours after an Amber Alert was issued for her, Apopka police said.

Police said Madeline Mejia, 3, was abducted from her father’s front yard on East Orange Street in Apopka around 6 a.m. Monday.

READ: How is an Amber Alert issued?

Her father, Lester Mejia, said he was running into the house for his keys after loading his daughter into the car. Next, he heard her scream, then he ran outside and saw a black Honda with Texas plates driving away with her.

Mejia followed the car to to I-75, and then had to go back home when he realized he didn’t have his cellphone.

“It was anguish not knowing what was happening to my daughter,” Mejia said. “I’m happy for my baby coming back.”

READ: Rally in Apopka calls for end to recent violence after 3rd person arrested in West Orange Trail murder case

An Amber Alert was issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“Obviously he didn’t think this was the morning someone was going to grab Madeline, We don’t all think about that,” Police Chief Michael McKinley said.

Police said troopers found the girl in a car on I-10 near Tallahassee around noon.

The FDLE said their agents spotted the suspect’s vehicle by air during patrols and radioed to troopers on the ground who stopped the vehicle near mile marker 208 on I-10 in Leon County.

Troopers said four suspects -- three men and one woman -- were taken into custody on kidnapping charges.

Mejia said he didn’t know who would take his daughter, or why.

Lt. Kim Montes said the little girl “was scared” and that the situation was "very traumatic.”

FDLE posted a photo to social media showing the moment troopers recovered the girl.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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