JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (PIX11) — With tears in her eyes, the mother of a kidnapped 5-year-old girl spoke out for the first time after the emotional ordeal.
“I was worried she was never going to come back,” the mother told PIX11’s Anthony DiLorenzo.
PIX11 News is not identifying the mother or her little girl, who’s now safe, as she’s alleged to be the victim of a sex crime.
On Tuesday, after some persistence on the part of the girl, she was allowed to go to the park with 75-year-old Franz Vila. But then it took a sinister turn, according to police, as Vila allegedly took the girl to his Upper East Side apartment, where he lives alone.
Police were searching the two-bed, one-bath, walk-up apartment on East 97th Street top to bottom Thursday.
“People tend to do things they’re not supposed to do. It’s about self-control. Sometimes there’s a darker side to all of us,” said building vendor Brian Miralda.
When her daughter didn’t return home Tuesday morning, the mother called police, sparking a massive search from Queens to Manhattan.
The two were ultimately found hours later back in Queens, and Vila was arrested on multiple charges.
“She was crying and everything, crying and really sad,” the mother recalled.
The mother was also arrested too for endangering the welfare of her child but then released without prosecution at this time, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
The 30-year-old mother told investigators the three formed a loose friendship, even hanging out on several occasions.
“We went out to the park, to eat, things like that,” said the mother, adding that he would pay for their food. “I wanted maybe him to give me food so my baby had food to eat,” the mother explained.
But detectives believe Vila had predatory motivations and his sights set only on the girl. It’s something her mom only now realizes. “It was wrong what I did. I should have never done what I did. I regret it,” the mother said.
The little girl is now with her father and is only allowed to have supervised visitations with her mother, she said.
The suspect, who police said has no prior record, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Thursday afternoon, and a judge set bail at $275,000. Vila is due back in court Aug. 28.