Home surveillance camera shows San Jose abduction
June 8, 2003
SAN JOSE, Calif. — On most days, Karen Kamfolt’s home surveillance cameras capture images of children laughing and playing outside, or of neighbors walking their dogs alongside neatly trimmed lawns.
But Friday, the cameras recorded snippets of a chilling after-school abduction — Kamfolt’s bloodied neighbor running out of her San Jose home and screaming for her 9-year-old daughter as a man sped off with the terrified girl in the back seat of his car, crushing some rose bushes along the way.
Jennette Tamayo was still missing Saturday and presumed to be with the man, who brutally attacked the girl’s unsuspecting mother and brother before screeching off.
The mother and 15-year-old brother told police they did not recognize the intruder.
Police released a sketch of the man Saturday as they reviewed the neighbor’s videotape and other crime scene evidence for clues, and tracked possible leads of the girl’s whereabouts.
“It still looks like a stranger abduction, and he definitely targeted the home,” San Jose police Officer Catherine Unger said.
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Interviews with the victims and other family members did not reveal any motive for the abduction, police said.
The grainy surveillance video did not have any clear shots of the kidnapper’s license plate or his face, but it does show the man waited in his car outside the Tamayo house until the girl returned home alone around 4:20 p.m. Friday, police said.
The mother and brother arrived home about fifteen minutes later, confronting the intruder. The mother, 31-year-old Rosalie Tamayo, was badly beaten, and the brother was choked. Both were treated at a hospital and released.
Corrie Monzon, who lives next door, heard screams but thought it was just children playing until Tamayo, hysterical and her face covered in blood, ran up to her house and started shaking the gate.
“Amiga, amiga, I need your help,” Monzon recalled her neighbor screaming. “Please call 911. He’s got Jennette. He’s got Jennette.”
Shaken, Monzon dialed five times before she successfully punched 911.
Jennette lives with her mother, brother and stepfather, who is a tree trimmer, Monzon said. The family moved into the peaceful, family-oriented, middle-class neighborhood about a year and a half ago, Monzon said.
Police said Jennette and her brother have different biological fathers. Investigators have contacted Jennette’s father — whom police did not identify. “He is not a strong suspect,” Unger said.
The mother was a stay-at-home mom until last month, when she got a landscaping job, Monzon said.
Jennette, a chubby fourth-grader with long dark-brown hair streaked with blonde, “is playful, outgoing and happy — a content girl,” Monzon said. “She always has a smile on her face.”
The school bus drops off Jennette and a few other neighborhood children a block from her home, Monzon said.
The surveillance tape shows the assailant getting out of his car and approaching the house within minutes of Jennette’s arrival Friday, police said.
“It does appear he’s waiting for this victim to get home,” San Jose police Sgt. Steve Dixon said. “Clearly, he knew where the house was.”
Police initially thought it might have been a burglary gone wrong, but the man took only a few token items and the video suggested he did not try to conceal that he was targeting Jennette’s house, Dixon said.
The California Highway Patrol issued a statewide Amber Alert for a silver sedan the man drove from the scene. It had tinted windows in the rear and a loud muffler and appeared similar to a late 80s or early 90s Honda Accord.
Police described the intruder as being in his 30s to early 40s, from 5-feet-2 to 5-feet-5-inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds. He was dark haired, unshaven, and wore a gray beanie and silver colored shirt. He may have scratches on his face or arms from a struggle with Jennette’s mother.
Jennette usually spent afternoons with a baby sitter, but Friday no one was home when she returned Friday, police said.
Perplexed authorities relied on the videotape for leads. Dixon sketched out the following sequence, based on the video:
The camera’s time counter is off, Dixon said, but it shows that sometime before 4 p.m. the man drove onto the street and parked in front of the house.
In the approximately 20 minutes before Jennette got home, the man spent several minutes out of the camera’s view, presumably casing the house. He then waited another 10 minutes in the car until the girl walked up and went inside.
Within two minutes, he left the car and somehow entered the home, perhaps by a rear window that might already have been broken.
After spending about 10 minutes in the home, the man returned to his car and backed it into the garage, which is attached to the home.
No more than three minutes later, Jennette’s mother and brother arrived home.
The brother tried twice to open the automatic garage door, but each time it rose only a few feet and snapped shut.
On the third try, the boy ducked under the door — only to be attacked immediately by the man.
“The suspect grabs him, starts to strangle him,” Dixon said.
The boy saw his terrified sister in the back seat of the car, crying.
The mother told police she heard screaming, and because she couldn’t get in through the garage, she rushed in the front door, only to be confronted by the man near the kitchen, who was still holding her son by the neck. She said he greeted her pleas for mercy with a few garbled words and a blank stare, as if on drugs.
Then he tossed her son aside and began to attack, clubbing her with pans and whatever he could get his hands on, police said. She fought back and bit one of his fingers.
“It was a very violent fight,” Unger said.
Eventually, the man got into the car and bolted out of the garage.
Kamfolt’s videotape captures the man speeding off, and then minutes later, the sirens and flashing lights of police cars and paramedics.
Kamfolt has had the surveillance system for five years — thanks to her 29-year-old godson who runs a residential security company and sometimes uses her home to demonstrate his products for customers.
“I pray the tape will help police capture the kidnapper,” Kamfolt said.