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The Kidnapping Of Candi Talarico: How A Sacramento Girl Was Found Six Weeks After She Disappeared

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It's easy to unlock a moment in time when that moment stays with you forever.

For Jack Manzer, winding his way to the present means recalling a big part of his past he keeps neatly chronicled in a book that tells the story of a little girl lost.

Candi Talarico, 4, was kidnapped from an alley near her Q Street apartment in Sacramento on June 4, 1988.

MORE: The Kidnapping Of Candi Talarico: 27 Years Later, Once-Missing Girl Now A Mom

It was 2 p.m. when the she a stranger got out of a car, ran up and took her. There were possible leads and descriptions, but nothing led to her quick return.

Days turned to weeks, and Jack Manzer followed it closely.

"For six weeks, I'm going 'I wonder where this little girl is. I wonder what's happened to her.' And I thought about her a lot," he said.

Candi's picture was put on milk cartons, posters were displayed and detectives worked around the clock.

Then, one morning, six weeks after the kidnapping, Manzer, a plant supervisor at the time was just starting his day.

"I was on my way to work and that's when I saw this guy carrying this little girl down the sidewalk," he said.

At first, he thought the girl must have been injured and the guy, possibly her father, was looking for help. That was hardly the case.

"I'm sitting there watching him and he pulled right out in front of me so I took his license..I took one of my business cards out and I wrote his license number down," he said.

As Jack was doing that, the girl got out of the car and ran. Jack ran to work and called police.

"As soon as I told them the description of the car and everything immediately they wanted me to come down," he said.

It was the vehicle they had been looking for, a blue Ford Escort. The woman in Modesto who owned it told police her brother had been using the car.

Kenneth Alvin Michel was taken into custody outside Elk Grove United Methodist Church where he was a custodian. He didn't say a word, because he couldn't. Deaf and mute since birth, the 32-year-old wrote down what police needed to find out.

At that point, every second counted, because Michel didn't just kidnap Candi and try to kidnap another girl.

Police made another discovery in the car's trunk.

"It was 105 degrees outside and she was in the trunk of the car, duct-taped all around, her mouth and everything," he said.

Inside was 5-year-old Muey Saefong, her legs still bound. She was found unconscious, but still alive inside a cardboard box in the tire well of the car Michel was driving. He had kidnapped her outside her apartment near 35th and Y streets in Sacramento just hours before his earlier failed abduction attempt.

But what about Candi?

Michel directed investigators to look inside a small opening that led to a crawlspace beneath the church altar.

It was a moment burned into Manzer's memory. He was hailed as a hero and given awards and some reward money for his huge role in leading to the kidnapper.

Talarico had survived six weeks in captivity in a space roughly five feet square and two feet high, with a dirt floor a wooden ceiling and concrete walls.

It was the ending to Manzer's scrapbook he had prayed for—a homecoming filled with love. And the church bells rang that day along Elk Grove Boulevard in a steady song of rejoice.

Talarico's mom noticed her once talkative daughter was talking mostly with her hands and not in sentences. Investigators would later find out her deaf and mute kidnapper had been teaching her sign language and ordered her to alert him to any sounds that might give away his hiding spot.

But all that mattered was Candi was back home, safe.

But where is she 27 years later?

"I was kind of always worried about that to you know," Manzer said. "I was is she gonna grow up now? Is this gonna affect her mentally, emotionally, is she gonna have a normal life? is she gonna have this always on her mind."

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