Probationer accused of attempting to kidnap students pleads not guilty

Taylor Martinez & City News Service

A 24-year-old probationer accused of attempting to abduct two children from an elementary school in Desert Hot Springs pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple felony charges.

Yessica Chavez Mercado, who was arrested at Bella Vista Elementary on Tuesday after being detained by school staff, was charged with kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, along with a misdemeanor count of presenting a false ID to a peace officer.

Mercado was arraigned at the Banning Justice Center before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Alfonso Fernandez, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for May 4 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

She remains held on $155,000 bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.

Officers sent to the 65700 block of Avenida Jalisco around noon Tuesday on a report that a woman was attempting to fight with people in the area found Mercado at the scene. She had been detained by school staff after she had allegedly “tried to grab several students as they were dismissed from school,” Cmdr. Corinn Pickett said.

The employees told police Mercado targeted two children, according to Pickett. Her relationship to those children, if any, was unclear. Court papers say one child was a boy and the other a girl.

In a statement, Palm Springs Unified School District spokeswoman Joan Boiko said parents with children at the school were informed of the incident shortly after it happened.

“The safety of our students is our number-one priority. We are grateful to our school administrators and security officer who responded quickly and were able to detain the woman until police arrived and arrested the trespasser without incident,” Boiko said.

“We let our parents know of the incident through a phone call home and reminded them that their children should always report anything that doesn’t look or feel right to them.”

Mercado is on probation — the three-year term ends in 2023 — stemming from a felony robbery conviction, court records show.

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