The sound of pressured water and the kaleidoscope of soapy windows is a highlight for most kids in the car with their parents.
"They just spray a bunch of soap on you," Charley Jorgenson said. "Then, they wash it and after the washing parts, you touch the window and it's cold."
For Charley, 8, and her 2-year-old sister Autumn, the car wash Sunday morning at a Kwik Trip convenience store south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was something their family does frequently.
"I've probably had a car wash there 50 times if not more," Adam Jorgenson, the girls' father said. "It's usually an easy stop."
But this Sunday morning was different. It was just before 11:30 a.m. when Adam took his SUV through the car wash. When he pulled out, the air dryers hadn't sufficiently dried the water off his car, so he parked the car and hopped out to grab something to buff the car quickly before heading home.
It was only going to be a few seconds, so he left the vehicle running.
But something wasn't right, Jorgenson said. Minutes before, he'd noticed a vehicle, a purple Buick Encore, parked at a diesel fuel pump at the station.
"I was like, what's that Buick doing sitting at a diesel pump?" Jorgenson said. "They don't need diesel."
Then, Jorgenson says someone in that car asked him for directions. He says there were two people inside, one holding a broken iPod Touch and another holding a phone.
"He said, 'Hey, I'm not from around here,'" Jorgenson said. "'Can I get directions?'"
It was strange, but Jorgenson barely had time to react.
"I heard the screeching of our tires, and I turned around and saw the RX5 going very fast out of the parking lot, heading onto 27th Street. I quickly turned back around to the guys who had asked me for directions, and I screamed at them saying, 'There are kids in the car you idiots.'"
"I was scared," Charley said. "I was like, what's happening?"
Charley and Autumn sat in the backseat while the driver continued on.
"He asked me, 'Where are the keys?'" Charley said. "I was like, 'That's a good thing that my dad has the keys.' So I told him, 'My dad has the keys.' Then, he told me to get out and I was like, what should I do? Should I run and be a scaredy cat, or should I save my sister too? So I said, 'What about Autumn?'"
Charley says the driver yelled to his two cousins in another car that there were kids in the car. The 8-year-old was contemplating what to do next to keep her and her sister safe.
"That guy was trying to steal our car; I should do something," Charley said. "I should try to kick him or defend myself and Autumn. But then I was like, I should stay in my seat and do nothing. Stay here, do the questions. But when I realized that dad had the key, I was like, he can't do anything without the key."
"It makes me really proud that we're raising our daughter to be sufficient on her own, to think about not just herself and others and then, how can I best get out of this situation?" Jorgenson said. "How can I best resolve it? What should I do? Should I sit back or should I take action?"
The driver ditched the car about a mile up the road at a Batteries Plus Bulbs.
While her dad had the keys to the vehicle, he did not have his cellphone. That was still in the vehicle, where the girls still were. So Charley grabbed the phone from the front seat and immediately called her mother, but the call went to voicemail.
"Mom," Charley said in the voicemail. "I need you. We lost dad."
In the voicemail, through tears, Charley cries out for help into the phone. Autumn can be heard in the background.
"Where go Da Da?" Autumn said.
"I don't know," said Charley.
"I definitely had the worst thoughts going through my mind," Jorgenson said.
Meanwhile, Jorgenson was on the phone with 911 dispatchers at the Kwik Trip while simultaneously on another phone with his wife, who was tracking the girls via his iPhone. She noticed the iPhone stopped moving at Batteries Plus Bulbs. The chain of communication from his wife through him to the dispatchers got police to the SUV quickly.
"Alright, Adam. The officers are out with the SUV, and the two kids are fine," the dispatcher told the man.
"Are you serious?" he said. "Oh my God."
"They are over by Batteries Plus. An officer is going to come over and meet you at Kwik Trip, OK?"
"Alright, but you guys have my kids?" the father said.
"We do, yes."
"Oh my God. Thank you."
"I ran as fast as I could out of the back of that cop car to hug them," Jorgenson said.
Jorgenson hopes others will hear this story and understand how something so routine could go so awry.
"It's pretty darn simple," Jorgenson said. "In the winter, you come outside with your groceries, and you have your two little kids. You want to put them in the warm car and go take your cart back to the corral. That's not the right order anymore. Your kids might need to be cold for a few more minutes outside with you before you start your car and put them in it. It took two seconds for me to respond to somebody, and them to sneak in."
Oak Creek Police say they have three people of interest in custody but ask anyone with information to contact them at 414-766-7627.
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