10-year-old girl found safe after father's SUV stolen in Hialeah

Police say girl had been sleeping in SUV later found in Hialeah Gardens

HIALEAH, Fla. – A 10-year-old girl has been found safe after the sport utility vehicle in which she was sleeping was stolen Thursday morning in Hialeah.

Hialeah police Sgt. Carl Zogby said the car was stolen about 6:30 a.m. at 2851 W. Okeechobee Road.

Zogby said police began a search for the car and found it abandoned in Hialeah Gardens a short time later. He said the girl was still inside.

Local 10 News reporter Layron Livingston spoke to Penelope Gomez after she was reunited with her parents.

"Yes, I was crying," Penelope said when asked if she was afraid after a woman drove away in her father's SUV.

The girl's mother, Maria Rodriguez, said she is glad her daughter was found quickly and safe.

Jorge Gomez said he feared the worst for his daughter. He said Penelope normally rides with him to work before she gets picked up for school.

Penelope said the morning started like most before a woman got inside the SUV and drove off. She said a hard turn woke her up.

"When I was in the car, she said to 'shut up,'" Penelope said.

Gomez said he was so panicked that a woman at a nearby bus stop had to call 911 for him.

Someone else was also on the phone -- the woman who drove off with Penelope. She called her mother to tell her what she had done.

Melba Cruz said her daughter has struggled with drugs for years. She said while authorities checked on Penelope, her daughter hitched a ride back to where she stole the car.

"She came out walking like nothing happened," Penelope's brother, Bryan Gomez, said.

He said the woman that his sister described to police was the same person he saw next door to his father's shop.

The woman, identified as Lissette Dopico, was arrested and faces several charges. Family members said they've seen her in the neighborhood asking for money.

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