The Arroyo Grande man who allegedly kidnapped a 6-month-old girl earlier this week was released from County Jail on Thursday, as new details revealed a complex relationship between him and the baby’s mother.
Peter Hewitt, 82, was arrested late Tuesday on suspicion of kidnapping, child endangerment and resisting arrest after police said he grabbed the keys from a woman who had been staying with him and drove away from the parking lot of a Grover Beach supermarket with her baby in his van.
He posted $100,000 bail Thursday.
Hewitt, reached at his Arroyo Grande home, referred all questions to Jeffrey Stein, his San Luis Obispo attorney. Stein said Thursday that Hewitt’s driving away from the parking lot was not to separate the mother from her child.
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Police reportedly found the baby with Hewitt in his garage and returned her safely to her mother, whom police identified as Jennifer Kim.
“He was losing patience with Ms. Kim’s intransigence,” Stein said. “The sense is that Peter and Ms. Kim had some disagreement that had nothing whatsoever to do with possession of the baby. This is a baby that he cherished ... and part of his willingness to devote so much assistance to Ms. Kim is that he cared so much for the baby.”
Kim had been staying with Hewitt temporarily. They reportedly met at the Nipomo Community Presbyterian Church.
Stein said Hewitt and Kim had a supportive, platonic friendship that has spanned several months. Hewitt agreed to let Kim stay with him and had advanced her several thousand dollars, Stein said.
The 34-year-old talked to The Tribune on Thursday, though she declined to identify herself other than to say she is the baby’s mother.
She said that she was driving Hewitt home from a square dancing class he attended and wanted to stop at a supermarket to get medicine for a headache. She stopped in the Vons parking lot at 1758 W. Grand Ave.
“While I was standing by the driver’s side door, he snatched the key out of my hand,” she said. “When he drove off ... in an aggressive state, I didn’t know what he was going to do.”
Seth Souza had just finished his shopping at Vons when he said a distraught woman ran up to him, screaming that her child had been kidnapped.
“I called 911 and said, ‘Let’s go find this guy,’ ” said Souza, an Allan Hancock College student. He and Kim jumped into his car and followed Hewitt, who drove to his Arroyo Grande home in the 1000 block of Fair Oaks Avenue.
“I ran up to the garage (as the door was closing) and tried to hold it to keep it from closing,” Souza said.
The garage door closed, but Souza said he could see through glass panels in the door that Hewitt was holding the baby.
Grover Beach Police Chief Jim Copsey said that when police arrived, they kicked in a side garage door and found Hewitt sitting in the passenger side of his van holding the baby. He eventually released the child, who was unharmed, to an officer.
Kim and her baby spent Tuesday night at a hotel. She declined to say where she is currently staying.
She said that she had planned to move out of Hewitt’s home as soon as she could find someone else to stay with.
“We needed a short-term place to stay, so that’s why I took the offer to stay with him,” she said.
The Rev. Eugenia A. Gamble of the Nipomo Community Presbyterian Church said Hewitt is a “wonderful human being.” She declined to comment further.
District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jerret Gran said Hewitt has no criminal record.
Hewitt is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, according to the court calendar. He faces charges of kidnapping, child endangerment, depriving a lawful custodian of a right to custody and three counts of resisting arrest.
Tribune staff writer Nick Wilson contributed to this report.