‘I had to pull her from his arms:’ North Texas parents rescue 2-year-old from kidnapper

Paige Ortiz had just carried a load of groceries inside on Monday evening when she looked out the window and saw a stranger grab her 2-year-old daughter.

The Crowley mother picked up her phone and a knife and ran out the door to where her husband, Carlos Ortiz, was struggling with a man.

“I immediately dialed 911,” Paige told the Star-Telegram in a phone interview. “I had the knife in my hand, and I was running as the phone was ringing.”

A short time before, the Ortiz family had been at Walmart to buy a new television for their daughter’s room. It was on the way home that Paige started to notice something was wrong. A blue pickup truck, similar to their own, seemed to be following them.

“By the time we made it to our neighborhood, that’s when I told my husband like, ‘Hey, this man’s following us. Like, this isn’t OK,’” Paige said. “And my husband told me that I was just overreacting, it’s no big deal.”

The blue truck parked across the street from the Ortiz home. The driver started asking Carlos questions about the family’s truck while Paige carried in the groceries. According to Paige, that’s when the man suddenly turned his attention to the little girl.

“He told my husband, ‘You’re not the father of this child’ and just started to bolt away,” she said. “And my husband was right on his trail, like trying to like reach out for him and grab our daughter.”

The whole experience was a shock, according to Paige. The little girl had not been left alone even for a second and now a stranger was trying to take her away “right in front of our eyes.”

While Carlos struggled with the man, Paige held the blade of her knife to his neck, looked him in the eyes and said she would kill him if he didn’t let her daughter go. The man was screaming and saying the child wasn’t her daughter, Paige said.

“People I think are also questioning why I didn’t kill him,” she said. “But I only had a certain amount of strength left and I had to make the choice to either pull her from his arms and get her to safety or end his life, and I chose to get her to safety.”

The kidnapping suspect, identified by officials as 62-year-old Steven Bayse, fled the scene alone. Paige provided law enforcement officials with the make, model and license number of his vehicle. Deputies from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office spotted Bayse’s truck and tried to pull him over, the sheriff’s office said.

Bayse refused to stop and led deputies on a chase, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. The law enforcement officials attempted a high-risk stop when Bayse was at a red light. He drove off and hit three patrol cars and almost struck a deputy, the release said.

Bayse then pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store and was taken into custody. He’s being held in the Tarrant County Jail on the charges of kidnapping, evading arrest or detention with a vehicle, and aggravated assault against a public servant.

His bond was set at $125,000, according to the sheriff’s office.

Bayse previously faced mail theft charges in Crowley, according to Tarrant County court records. The charges were filed April 6 and he was convicted of one misdemeanor count. Court records indicate he was sentenced to 10 days in jail for stealing mail.

The Ortiz family is trying to get their lives back to normal, and Paige doesn’t think their daughter remembers what happened.

“She sleeps well at night, she acts normally, she’s still you know, as rambunctious and full of attitude as ever,” Paige said. “She hasn’t changed.”

Paige said the incident has increased her awareness to what’s going on around her. She also wants other parents to know that what happened to her family could happen to anyone, and they should pay attention to their gut if something doesn’t seem right.

“Don’t listen to the people who are saying, ‘Oh, you’re so overreacting, this is . . . fine,’ or whatever,” she said. “No, because it’s not fine. You have every right to overreact as a parent and I’m so glad and thankful that I was overreacting because had I not been, things could have been different.”