Tragic discovery after campground standoff
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A 9-year-old girl was found dead Friday when officers rushed a tent at a South Shore campground, ending a lengthy standoff with two adults wanted for kidnapping.
James Csucsai, 35, and 32-year-old Lisa Ann Platz, the girl’s mother, were found in the tent with their wrists slashed about 10:30 a.m. Police moved in after negotiators heard Csucsai say he was losing consciousness; his neck also was slashed.
Both adults were conscious when taken to Barton Memorial Hospital around 10:30 a.m., according to South Lake Tahoe police officer Chuck Owens. As of 5:30 p.m., Csucsai was in surgery in critical condition. Platz was treated and released, then booked into the El Dorado County jail on suspicion of kidnapping and murder.
The dead girl, Rebecca Aramburo, was kidnapped at gunpoint in mid-August from her biological father in Lakewood, Wash., according to Pierce County investigators. In August, Platz failed to appear at a Pierce County court hearing on a charge of custodial interference from earlier this year.
Local police received notice of an FBI fugitive watch Thursday night from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. The suspects were believed to be en route to South Lake Tahoe, and the advisory included a description of the 1995 Nissan Maxima found next to the tent.
Police made contact about 1 a.m., but Csucsai refused to leave the tent, told officers he had a gun and warned them to stay away. At one point, Owens said, the man shouted, “We will not be taken alive.”
No gun was found in the tent, but two knives were recovered. Two handguns and a rifle were found inside the Nissan, Owens said.
More than 50 law enforcement personnel eventually responded, including special tactical teams. Nearby campers were quietly roused from their sleep and evacuated. U.S. Highway 50 was closed through the morning.
Campers were taken to the Inn by the Lake and later settled at the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center, where they were provided doughnuts and coffee.
Louise Wright of Ventura, Calif., was sleeping when she was startled by shouting from a nearby campsite.
“I was awakened about 2:30 a.m. with yelling and screaming,” she said Friday morning. “I couldn’t see where it was coming from but I opened my window and heard a guy say, ‘What did this little girl ever do to you that you’d want to hurt her?’ I don’t know who said it. About 3:30 a.m. a (police officer) knocked on our door and said to quietly get dressed, not to start any engines and walk off the campground as quickly as we could. It is scary.”
After the standoff ended, stunned campers looked on as detectives and evidence technicians examined the crime scene. Keli Malinoski, 35, of Granite Bay, Calif., said she was waiting outside the restroom Thursday afternoon when Platz and the girl came out.
“The little girl kept staring at me,” Malinoski said, shaking her head in dismay. “I knew something was wrong, I knew it, but what are you going to say? ‘A little girl stared at me?'”
As Platz and Rebecca walked away, the mother wrapped her arms around the child and kissed her on the head, Malinoski said.
Hayley Viens, a 25-year-old Vacaville resident, arrived at the campground with her family around 9 p.m. Thursday. She awoke to the sounds of shotguns being cocked, barking dogs and officers yelling at the people in the tent next to their campsite.
“The man kept telling the police officers to back off and the woman was saying the same thing,” Viens said. “She kept saying, ‘Leave us alone.'”
Viens’ stepfather, Ken Wright, said the tent was illuminated by headlights and he could see the figures of two people seated inside. Nobody in Wright’s group ever saw or heard Rebecca. Friday afternoon, Viens’ 18-month-old daughter napped inside their RV, exhausted after being up all night. Viens said the family did not plan to cut short their trip.
“I don’t have any concerns for our safety at all,” she said. “It didn’t even cross my mind.” Juergen Kohl, 58, was vacationing with his family from Dusseldorf, Germany. They had planned to leave Friday for Sacramento, but were so exhausted by the ordeal they decided to stay another night.
“Things like this happen every day, in every place,” Kohl said. “If you’re close by, then you’re involved, then it hurts you.”
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