Sonia Duarte had been having contractions all night, so about 2 a.m. Tuesday she told her husband, Victor, it was time to go to the hospital to deliver their fourth child.
A whirlwind of events soon would leave her gasping from more than contractions.
Victor went outside their home in the 1200 block of West McCormick, near Seneca and Kellogg, to warm up their van. When he came back inside, he told his wife he felt as if someone had been watching him from behind a tree.
Sonia couldn’t find her purse. Her mother, who had come over to stay with the children in case Sonia did have to go to the hospital, also searched.
It was taking too long, so Victor went back outside to turn off the van and saw someone drive off in the family’s only vehicle.
“What am I going to do?” Sonia recalled thinking at the time.
Victor grabbed the keys to his mother-in-law’s car to chase after the stolen van.
“The Grandmamobile,” said Christian, the Duartes’ 14-year-old son. All the commotion also woke up his sisters, Maria, 12, and Jasmin, 6.
“I was worried about my mom,” Jasmin said.
Victor lost the van, but police and deputies spotted it and began their chase.
Meanwhile, a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy had called for an ambulance to take Sonia to Wesley Medical Center.
The van was driven over several spike strips, ripping up the right-side tires, but the driver kept going before losing a rim. That forced him to stop shortly after 3 a.m. in 800 block of West Harry, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Pollock said.
“He basically made circles driving in that neighborhood,” Pollock said.
Deputies took the driver, a 36-year-old man, into custody. Convicted of robbery and burglary charges in Sedgwick County, he had been paroled in 2011 and was wanted on a parole violation.
At the hospital, Sonia was told she was having false labor and was sent home about 3:30 a.m. The baby is due March 9.
“I’ve been having contractions for five months,” she said. “I thought he was going to come early.”
Sonia said she still was feeling the contractions as she sat on the couch in their home early Tuesday afternoon.
Victor, who has been out of work for three months, was called by a friend earlier in the day and asked if he wanted a two-day job doing some remodeling.
“He asked if I wanted him to stay with me today,” Sonia said. “I told him, no, go to work. We need the money.”
Police told Victor that the 2001 Oldsmobile van was totaled and asked if he wanted them to tow it away, Sonia said, but he told them to take it to his house because he would try to sell it for parts.
Officers had brought Victor to the van where it stopped on Harry to identify it. He saw the suspect sitting in a patrol car and walked up to him.
“The man apologized to Victor,” said Maribel Rios, Sonia’s sister. “Victor told him, ‘No, I’m sorry. I’m free and you’re going to jail.’ ”
Sonia is also trying to look on the bright side, thankful that no one was hurt and her baby is OK.
Of course, the Duartes are now without a vehicle. Rios said she would be on call to take her sister to the hospital.
“I know this will work out,” Sonia said. “I’m praying it will.”