Calif. toddler found abandoned in field, mom arrested

TEHACHAPI, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) It was Sunday morning, around 9, when Glenna Whitman was driving along Cherry Lane on her way to church in Tehachapi. Whitman noticed a stroller and then a toddler alone in a vacant field.

"Something was telling me, 'Something's not right,'" said Whitman.

Bothered by what she saw, Whitman told a friend at church about what she had seen. Luanne Arden accompanied Whitman back to the site.

"We drove back here, and she was still here in the stroller," said Arden, as the two women related their story at the site where they found the 2-year-old girl.

"My heart just broke for her, because she was sitting here all alone," said Arden. "She was very dirty, with tears, snots, hair covered in fox-tails."

The girl was wearing only a T-shirt, shorts and no shoes.

And the toddler was just a few feet away from the edge of the road.

Kern County deputies arrived on scene and found a purse, shoes and a blanket. Investigators determined the child's mother lived nearby and made contact with 34-year-old Stacey Nikkel.

The mother was arrested and booked on suspicion of felony willful cruelty to a child and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Investigators believe the child was left alone in the vacant field from about 10:30 p.m. Saturday night until the child was found the next morning.

"This one's kind of strange, because we're trying to figure it out ourselves," said Sgt. Doug Wilson. "We're still actively investigating this case, we're still looking really for more answers to tie everything together."

Whitman and Arden tried to comfort the girl but were afraid they might frighten her when they approached her. Whitman talked to the girl, who then began asking for her mommy.

Whitman said she reached down and asked the girl if she could hold her.

"She reached up to me, and she kind of just wrapped her legs around me and put her head against my neck," said Arden.

The child was physically unharmed and was taken into protective custody and placed at Jamison Center in Bakersfield.

According to Kern County Superior Court records, Nikkel was charged in 2012 with willful cruelty to a child, but that case was dismissed.

Nikkel was arraigned Tuesday on the new charges in a Mojave courtroom.