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Mother Taken To Jail Because Daughter Resembles Missing Child

June 18, 1985

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ A woman who spent a night in jail because her 4-year-old daughter ″could be a dead ringer for″ a missing girl says police had a reason to detain her and she has no plans to press charges.

Carolyn Mixsell was arrested after a woman saw her with her daughter Anela and told police she thought she had seen the missing child. Laura Bradbury was three when she was abducted from a Mojave Desert campground in October.

″She could be a dead ringer for Laura Bradbury,″ Mrs. Mixsell said Monday of Anela. ″You can’t tell them apart.″

Mrs. Mixsell said she had seen posters of Laura but never realized the resemblance until she was arrested by Pasadena police last month. Since then the family has become wary of taking Anela out for fear the mistake might be repeated, she said.

Police approached Mrs. Mixsell as Anela and her 7-year-old sister Aleeza, climbed into the family’s van in the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church School on May 1.

A woman driving past had called police to say she had seen the Bradbury child. Police said the woman saw a picture of Laura on television the night before.

″They took Anela out of the van and asked me to describe her,″ Mrs. Mixsell said. ″The problem was my description of Anela matched that of Laura’s. They both have sandy blonde hair, brown eyes and are about the same size.″

Mrs. Mixsell said police never told her she had been stopped because of Anela’s resemblance to the missing child, but that she was being arrested because of traffic warrants on her husband’s van.

She didn’t learn the other reason until seven hours later when she was allowed to see her husband, she said.

″I thought it was strange that they were asking me questions that had nothing to do with my husband’s vehicle,″ she recalled. ″They should have told me up front what was going on, but they didn’t.″

After tracing birth records and bringing Laura’s parents to see Anela, police realized that a mistake had been made. But Mrs. Mixsell spent the night in jail because her husband was unable to raise $671 in bail.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials, who are in charge of the search for Laura, sent Mrs. Mixsell an apology note and thanked her and her husband for their patience.

But Pasadena police said they would not apologize for arresting Mrs. Mixsell and said their actions were right because the child could have been Laura Bradbury.

″The officers handled this as we would expect them to,″ said Lt. Gary Bennett.

John Zerblis, a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy who is investigating the Bradbury case, said placing photographs of missing children everywhere from milk cartons to grocery bags has helped investigators find some children but has also increased fear.

″Grocery bag pictures are hard to distinguish,″ he said. ″Those pictures could look like a hundred different kids.

Marjorie Swartz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Sacramento, said the issue of missing children has led to ″a witch-hunt hysteria.″

Incidents like the Mixsell arrest are ″what happens when we get overly zealous about a particular issue,″ she said.

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