A kidnapped 2-year-old was safely and happily back in her mother's care on Friday.
"It really feels like I'm holding her again for the first time," said Crystal Mata.
Mata's daughter, Alizae, has no idea about the terror her mother went through for nearly two days, wondering if she'd ever see her alive again.
Houston police said Alizae was kidnapped by 22-year-old Jessenia Saldana. Saldana was a woman Mata said she used to trust because Saldana is Mata's brother's girlfriend. Mata said that is why she let Saldana take Alizae with her to run errands about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Later that day, Mata said Saldana had not returned.
Those hours turned into almost two days that Mata waited and worried about her daughter's safety.
Mata said she thought her missing 2-year-old daughter had been found safe earlier Thursday, but her hopes were dashed when she got to the hospital to see her. Mata told KPRC Local 2 shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday that she had received a voicemail from Saldana, letting her know that the two were at Memorial Hermann Hospital and were OK. About 6:30 p.m., she said that her daughter was not there. The Amber Alert was issued for Alizae on Thursday evening, more than 24 hours after she disappeared. However, Mata said Saldana finally did give Alizae back late Thursday night.
Detectives said Alizae and Saldana were found at an apartment complex in the 8400 block of Broadway about 11:30 p.m. Someone other than Saldana was the apartment's tenant, but police said that person did not appear to have anything to do with Alizae's disappearance. Alizae was reunited with her mother and appeared to be OK, but police recommended that her mother take her to a hospital as a precaution.
Investigators said Saldana has not told them why she took Alizae or where she had the girl during that time. Saldana has been charged with kidnapping.
Mata said Saldana has two children of her own, but may have wanted more.
"She was claiming to be pregnant, took a pregnancy test and she wasn't," Mata said. She is not certain of Saldana's reasons, but Mata is just relieved to know Saldana is in jail.
"I think it will probably open up her eyes a little bit, and while she is in there maybe she can get the help that I think she needs," said Mata.