By Joe Vazquez

VALLEJO (KPIX 5) — A Bay Area woman who survived a child abduction almost two decades ago is now making it her mission to help others avoid a similar trauma.

Midsi Sanchez was eight years old when she was kidnapped in 2000. She made national headlines with her daring escape.

Nearly 18 years later, she says she is still dealing with the emotional fallout from her ordeal.

Standing among the custom hot rods on the Vallejo waterfront that were part of a fundraiser for her new venture, the 25-year-old Sanchez talked about the non-profit aimed at preventing child kidnappings and sexual abuse.

“I was abducted and gone for three days. The three longest days of my life,” said Sanchez.

The crime took place on August 10, 2000. Sanchez was only eight years old, walking home alone from school, when 39-year-old Curtis Dean abducted her and locked her up in chains.

“Being sexually assaulted and raped, chained to his vehicle like an animal,” remembered Sanchez.

She eventually managed to escape when her captor left her alone in the car with the keys. She unlocked her chains and made it home alive. Her hometown of Vallejo and the entire Bay Area cheered, relieved she made it to safety.  

“The community showed so much love and support and prayer. And I’m so grateful for that,” said Sanchez. “But after experiencing such trauma and trying to go back to a normal life, it isn’t the easiest thing to do.”

Her life took some difficult turns. PTSD from her terrifying experience led to alcoholism. After she was badly injured in a car crash at age 16, she found out she was pregnant with her daughter who is now eight years old.

It was when she learned of her pregnancy that Sanchez looked deep inside herself and — once again — found a way to unlock the chains that were holding her back.

In 2009, Sanchez reached out to the family of Sandra Cantu, whose daughter was missing in Tracy. She says her presence seemed to help, even though Sandra was later found dead inside a suitcase.

Sanchez realized she had a knack for helping families in some of the most dire circumstances.  

The fundraiser on Sunday featuring dozens of classic cars at Gentleman Jim’s restaurant in Vallejo was intended to collect money and raise awareness for her new nonprofit, the Midsi Sanchez Foundation.  

Sanchez will give presentations to students using animatronic puppets with a focus on prevention of abduction and child sex abuse.

“My favorite tip, which I give to my own daughter, is that adults don’t need help from children,” explained Sanchez.”The man who abducted me claimed to be disabled and didn’t have the ability to bend over so he asked me to help him.”

It turned out her captor Dean had murdered two other girls he had kidnapped — Amber Schwartz and Xiana Fairchild. He later died in prison while serving a 300-year sentence.She knows her story could also have had a terrible ending. So she’s not wasting any time to help others.

Being in that man’s car, being gripped by him, being scared for my life, I didn’t know if I was going to live, said Sanchez. I’m just so grateful that I get to be here and use the past for something greater.

Sanchez’s life story continues to inspire the many people who prayed all those years ago for her safe return. She hopes people will also be inspired to help her new cause.

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