The cold case murder of Leticia Hernandez - Oceanside, California - December 16, 1989

On Saturday, December 16, 1989, Leticia Hernandez's mother discovered that her daughter was missing. She knew that the 7-year-old had previously been in the front yard, but after returning from the washroom, she realized that the girl was no longer there. At first she thought that Leticia had gone to the park with other children, and was not aware of the perilous situation. The mother only realized the seriousness when the children came back from the park, but without Leticia. Panic set in.

Because the girl's parents initially thought she had gone to the park with the other children, they did not report their daughter's disappearance to the police until 9 p.m. Four precious hours had passed. It was clear that the girl must have been kidnapped from the front yard, and a major search of the area was launched. However, the police encountered problems in the investigation from the start. The kidnapping had taken place in a mainly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, but due to a shortage of Spanish-speaking agents, the search was difficult. No one appeared to have seen Leticia get into a car or go with anyone.

In the initial period of the missing person's case, police targeted a man who allegedly offered several children $50 to get into his two-tone blue/black four-door Cadillac. According to witnesses, it all happened around 6:00 PM on 6th Street and Hill Street, which was not far from Leticia's childhood home, on Bush Street. 

Sightings of Leticia Hernandez
During the disappearance, more and more sightings of Leticia came in. Several people in various places thought they had seen the girl, in the presence of a white man and woman in their late twenties. The sightings were always at rest areas on the highway and at gas stations. Most of the sightings were along Interstates 8 or 10. For example, one reportedly saw a girl resembling Leticia in the company of the mysterious couple at the Buckman Spring rest area, about 40 miles east of San Diego, and more than 80 miles from her home. A few days later she was "seen" on the Mt. Laguna Campgrounds, and again later someone saw her with the man in a restaurant in Osotillo. Sightings kept coming in, and police suspected the couple were heading east.

The man was about six feet tall, believed to weigh 200 to 250 pounds, and had blond hair down to his shoulders. He is said to have a tattoo of an outlined cross with an inscription on the back of one of his hands. The woman, according to witnesses, was also about six feet tall, weighed 130 pounds, and had light eyes with dirty, bleached blonde hair to the collar. The suspects may be driving a 1975 Maroon Buick Skylark, with a tan leather or vinyl interior. Thanks to observant witnesses, the license plate may have contained the letters or numbers "KR966" or "CR966." The last time people thought they saw Leticia with the couple was on January 1, 1990, on Interstate 10 in Sealy, Texas.
What the police and Leticia's family didn't know at the time was that the poor girl was long dead.

Remains found
On March 9, 1991, 15 months after the disappearance, a skull was found along Highway S16. The site was located between Pala Indian reservation and the Riverside County line. It was about 20 miles from Leticia's house. The teeth were compared to Leticia's dental records, and it turned out to be a match. The search for the 7-year-old girl was over. The inconsolable relatives entered a new chapter. The police and a large team combed the area around the site for days, but found no other bones. Evidence was collected, including the girl's clothing. (Perpetrator) traces could no longer be found due to the many months of exposure to the elements. 

The girl's remains were closely examined by a medical examiner. According to him, Leticia had died within three months of her abduction. Because the clothes found at the site were the same clothes she was wearing on that day, it was likely she was killed shortly after the kidnapping.

Possible suspect
After the discovery of Leticia's remains, police had their sights set on a neighbor of the Hernandez family for a while. He had received attention from detectives before, but because of the many sightings that appeared more and more, that eventually faded. The man lived near the victim and was a married father of three children. A landscape gardener, but also a convicted child molester. According to himself, he was not in town at the time of the kidnapping, but other people contradicted that. A federal grand jury investigated him, but the man was never arrested.

Information and Tips
Sadly, Leticia Hernandez's infanticide remains unsolved after all these years. This is to the great sadness of the surviving relatives. Leticia's mother, who fought like a lioness for answers, died of a serious illness five years after her daughter's abduction. She never found out what happened to Leticia, and who was responsible. Her family and the police still want answers to those questions.

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