While much of New Haven slept overnight into Saturday morning, detectives were working intensely on finding a missing 4-year-old girl.
They first got a call from the girl’s mother at 12:35 a.m.
Here’s what happened next, according to Sgt. Al Vazquez and police spokesman Officer David Hartman:
The mother had asked her brother Calvin to watch her daughter during the day on Friday while she went to work at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Calvin—who according to police has an “extensive” felony record for crimes ranging from assault to robbery and weapons violations—had been released from prison 10 days earlier and was staying with his sister. The sister gave Calvin her cell phone before going to work at the hospital.
She came around midnight—and discovered neither Calvin nor her daughter at home. Family members said Calvin had taken the daughter out with him around 5:30. The mother wasn’t able to reach Calvin on the cell phone.
The cops began an “interrupted” search for the girl and for Calvin. They learned through the mother’s cell phone provider that the phone had last been used on Ferry Street. The cops started searching there.
At 6:30 a.m. the mother got a call from a coworker at Yale-New Haven. The coworker recognized Calvin. Calvin had been picked up in East Haven and taken to the emergency room for “substance detoxification.”
Sgt. Elisa Tuozzoli, who heads the New Haven police department’s Missing Persons Unit, rushed to the hospital. They interviewed Calvin. He was fuzzy on details. “He wasn’t trying to be deceptive,” Vazquez said Saturday evening. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you where the baby is.’”
He said he’d left the child with a woman named “Sholanda,” whose phone number he didn’t know. He described a yellow house with a chain link fence. He said it was on Wolcott Street near Blatchley in Fair Haven. The detectives realized he meant Woolsey Street. They rushed over. Tuozzoli picked up the mother along the way to join them.
Meanwhile, another detective from the Missing Persons Unit, Jessie Agosto, came to the hospital. Vazquez and Tuozzoli found several yellow houses with yellow doors in the vicinity. They knocked on the front doors. No one was answering. They called Agosto back in the hospital and sought more details. Agosto questioned Calvin further. She learned that the house has a triangular front-porch roof. It has an alley on the side with garbage cans.
Bingo. One house fit that description.
Vazquez and Tuozzoli knocked on the door. No one answered. They kept knocking. They looked in the windows.
After about 15 minutes a woman answered the door.
“Is your name Sholanda?” they asked the woman.
The woman said no. She gave a different name: “Lisette.”
“Is there a small child here?” they asked.
The woman kept the door only partially open. The detectives noticed the woman looking up the stairwell behind her. She asked a child on the stairs what her name is.
At that point Vazquez pushed the door all the way open, called the girl by her name. “Come down,” he said. “I have your mother here.”
The girl ran down, into her mother’s arms. “As you can imagine, the mother was all over her, crying,” Vazquez said.
The girl was fine, unharmed, he said.
It turned out that the woman with whom Calvin had left the little girl had left the house. She has two of her own children living there, too. She had asked “Lisette,” who is homeless, to come sit for the little girl as well as for the other two children. The homeless woman, whose name isn’t really Lisette, fought with the police at the scene. Police arrested her for interfering. They charged Calvin with risk of injury to a child.
Police called the state Department of Children and Families, which took the other two children, who are 4 and 12 years old, into custody.