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Man charged with kidnapping toddler in Pope County

Prosecutors say Victor Ramirez Alvarez of Big Lake took the 2-year-old boy from the home of a woman he wanted to date while she was at work.

GLENWOOD, Minn. — A 22-year-old Big Lake man is charged with kidnapping and depravation of parental rights after police say he took a toddler from the home of a woman he wanted to date while she was at work, and the child's caregivers were sleeping. 

Prosecutors charged Victor Ramirez Alvarez in Pope County Court Monday in connection with the alleged kidnapping of a 2-year-old boy from his home in rural Westport. 

"It's kind of scary," said John Luhm, who lives near Ramirez Alvarez at the Big Lake Estates mobile home park. Luhm said he moved in less than a year ago to the park he describes as "pretty quiet," adding that "there has been times where we had problems, you know, but usually they move or we get them out."

The criminal complaint filed against Alvarez lays out how Pope County deputies were sent to the home just before 4:30 a.m. on March 17, when the child's mother called 911 and reported the boy missing. She told investigators that family members were caring for the toddler while she was at work, and discovered him missing when she got home around 2 a.m. While searching for the boy, the mother found a note written in both Spanish and English asking forgiveness for taking the child, and indicating a prior plan to do so. 

Deputies began searching the scene and located footprints outside the boy's bedroom window. K-9s followed the child's scent from the residence to the driveway, but lost it on the street.

When questioned by investigators the mother told them of a man she knew as Benigno Alvarez (later identified as the suspect, Victor Ramirez Alvarez) who was very fond of her son. She said Ramirez would give them rides, hug her son, buy him things and take photos with him. She also told investigators that Ramirez wanted to date her but she had refused. He allegedly knew the layout of the home and where the boy slept as he had been there before to give them rides.

Credit: Pope County Sheriff's Office
Victor Ramirez Alvarez

A tip phoned in by the manager of a restaurant Alvarez worked at turned out to be the break detectives needed. The manager told them the defendant had appeared at the restaurant with a child who looked like the young boy in an Amber Alert that had been issued. The manager also said that Alvarez, who was not known to have a child, told fellow employees five days earlier he would be bringing his child in to visit. 

Deputies went to the defendant's home and found the clothes the toddler was wearing the night he was taken. Just before 11:15 p.m., law enforcement located his pickup and stopped Alvarez while he was driving, but the child was not with him. A half-hour later, a woman called 911 and told dispatchers she had found a child inside her garage in rural Stearns County, seated in a booster seat and unharmed. 

Alvarez was questioned by investigators and reportedly confessed that he made a mistake taking the child from the residence without the mother's permission. He allegedly admitted to dropping the boy off at a garage of someone he knew when no one was home at the residence. 

"I thought, were they trying to kill him or what? Because they’d freeze to death in the garage, unless it’s heated," questioned Luhm.

If found guilty of kidnapping Victor Ramirez Alvarez could face a maximum recommended sentence of 20 years in prison. 

When asked what prompted the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to issue an alert despite not having identifying information about the abductor or vehicle to share, MN Dept. of Public Safety Public information Officer Jill Oliveira shared this statement with KARE 11: 

"After the BCA became involved in the case it became fairly clear that this was an abduction, but we were missing key pieces of information including who took him and in what vehicle. Investigators worked throughout the day to learn more about what happened and identify any information about the abductor. Ultimately, we felt the potential benefit of issuing the Alert outweighed the downside of not providing identifying information about the abductor or vehicle. The AMBER Alert was issued, as you know. Investigators from many agencies continued to develop information that substantiated the abduction. As a result, investigators took the suspect into custody and located the child unharmed." 

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