Custody battle leads to kidnapping a 17-month-old boy


17-month-old Leonnel Barajas found safe and unharmed after being abducted Monday night.

Authorities said it all started over a child custody dispute between a mother and a father not living together with no legal paperwork stating who has the right to Barajas.

An issue that ended up being very problematic.

"In this case it turned into someone from the family breaking into the house you know with a gun and grabbing the child," said Yakima Police Department Captain Jeff Schneider.

Leonnel Barajas was taken by his 23-year-old uncle Manuel Mendoza after he broke down the back door of the boy’s home and pointed a gun.

This took place on the 800 block of Central Avenue around 11:30 Monday night.

After an overnight search for the boy police located Mendoza at 5:45 Tuesday morning near Lincoln and Clarke avenues.

Police said that 24-year-old Jessica Mendoza, the boy’s mother may have also been involved.

"We've had the mother in for questioning this morning and we are still working on that angle of the case, we'll just see what her involvement was or wasn't as time goes on here," added Schneider.  

Police said they had some advantages because it wasn't done by a stranger and they knew there had been some previous custody problems between the parents.

This gave them a place to start looking---

"It really fell into place pretty rapidly because you essentially have a known suspect in very short order once you have that it’s very simple to solve," said Schneider.

Police encourage other families that have separated parents to get a legal custody plan to avoid problems.

"Because it’s much easier for us to deal with in a law enforcement perspective when there's court orders that specify who's supposed to have the child and when,” said Jeff Schneider.

The boy's uncle, Manuel Mendoza, is facing burglary, kidnapping and assault charges.



Yakima Police have found missing 1 year old Leonnel J. Barajas, the amber alert has been cancelled.

The 17 month old was taken by gun point from his father’s home in the 800 blk of Central Avenue. His uncle, 24 year old Manuel Mendoza, and his mother, 25 year old, Jessica Mendoza forcibly entered the home and kidnapped the little bot around 11:30 pm. An amber Alert was issued and a description of the boy, the suspects and the car they were believed to be in was made public.

Around 5:45 am police located Manuel Mendoza and took him into custody for questioning, they continued their search for the boy and the other suspect, his mom. It was confirmed at 8:59 am that the little boy had been found safe and that his mother Jessica Mendoza had been taken into police custody.

Detectives from the Yakima Police Department are continuing the investigation and we will keep you updated as we learn more.  

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