Grand jury to hear case of woman charged with abducting California toddler

jwarren@herald-leader.comJanuary 8, 2013 

The case against a woman charged with abducting her granddaughter from California will be sent to a Fayette County grand jury.

Fayette District Judge Kim Wilkie ruled after a hearing Tuesday morning that there was enough evidence to send the case against Maria DeJesus-Baltierra to the grand jury.

University of Kentucky Police detained DeJesus-Baltierra, 62, on Dec. 27 after she was seen pushing Alouette Day-Moreno-Baltierra, who was inadequately clothed, across campus in a stroller in sub-freezing weather. The 17-month-old girl had been abducted from California in mid-October.

UK police charged DeJesus-Baltierra with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a minor. She also is wanted on a fugitive warrant from California.

The girl has been returned to child protective custody in California, according to testimony Tuesday. Authorities said Alouette's mother, Dominque Baltierra, is somewhere outside the United States.

During Tuesday's hearing, UK Police officer Jeni Ockerman testified that she and officer Emily Smith initially questioned DeJesus-Baltierra because they were concerned for the welfare of the child in the cold weather on Dec. 27. Ockerman said the girl's hands and face were red and felt cold, so she and Smith invited DeJesus-Baltierra to bring the child into their police cruiser to "warm up."

Ockerman said she and Smith became suspicious and eventually took DeJesus-Baltierra into custody when she refused to give the child's name or provide other information.

Public defender Herb West, who represented DeJesus-Baltierra, moved for dismissal of the charges Tuesday, but Wilkie rejected his argument.

A hearing on whether to extradite DeJesus-Baltierra to California was set for March. West said the hearing mainly will be to determine whether California authorities want the defendant.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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