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Teenager in car stolen from Concord Mall shares brave story

Elkhart, Ind. -- A brave teenager from Goshen is credited with saving her little sister’s life. The sisters were in the backseat of their mom’s SUV when it was stolen, but, the teenager managed to keep them both safe.

It was supposed to be just a quick stop at Concord Mall on Friday afternoon. It was raining, and her baby sister had finally fallen asleep, so 15-year-old Cristina Perez offered to watch her sister while their mom, Laura, went inside.

Cristina, like many teens her age, babysits on the weekends. Laura says she's great with 10-month-old Arianna and very responsible, so she had the kids wait outside with the car running so they'd stay cool in the AC.

Parked in the lot outside of Carson’s, moments later a woman they didn’t know got in the driver’s seat and told Cristina to get out.

“I said ‘no, my sisters in here, my mom’s in the store’ and she said ‘I have a gun and I don’t want to hurt you.’ She was telling me ‘one thing you need to learn in life is put yourself first,’ and I was saying ‘I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to put myself first because my sister is right here, I cannot put myself first,’” says Cristina.

From the backseat Cristina FaceTime her mom, but, the suspect heard and grabbed the cell phone. Cristina says she screamed and the suspect then took off with them still in the car.

Laura heard her daughter screaming over the phone and quickly ran outside, but the car was already gone. She called 911 immediately.

Driving on U.S. 33 towards Goshen, Cristina says the woman was driving erratically.

“I was telling her ‘please just drop me off. I’ll get out quick, nothing will happen.’ My sister was sleeping the whole time,” says Cristina.

Cristina says she continued to plead with the woman. After driving five miles, the suspect pulled in to McDonald’s in Goshen and told the teenager to take her sister and get out.

“She looked in the mirror and said ‘I’m sorry. I don’t want you of your sister I don’t want money, I just want to go away.’ I think there was a good part in her because she actually let us go and she gave me my phone back and told us to take care,” says Cristina.

Cristina, with Arianna and her diaper bag in hand, ran into McDonalds where she called Laura again. They were safe with family and Elkhart Police a few minutes later.

“They said she was Sleeping Beauty and I was Super Woman because I saved her from getting hurt,” says Cristina.

Neither of the girls were hurt, but Cristina says it was a terrifying experience.

“It’s going to take a while for me to get over it. People say just forget about it, but, that was a really traumatic experience. You can’t just forget about it, the flashbacks just come back,” says Cristina.

On Sunday afternoon, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department recovered Laura’s stolen SUV in Auburn. Police say it was found abandoned in a parking lot and the license plate had been removed.

Police say the suspect has not been located or identified.

She’s described as a white woman with brown hair and hazel eyes, wearing a pink tank top. If you have any information you’re asked to contact the Elkhart Police Department at 574-295-7070 or Michiana Crime Stoppers 574-288-STOP, 800-342-STOP or visit michianacrimestoppers.com.

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