Gena Weaver was always reluctant to let her 5-year-old daughter spend time with her father, whom she claims treated her badly during their brief time together, but knew he had the courts on his side.
So when Adrian Sanchez showed up on October 8 wanting Acelynn Sanchez to stay at his mother’s Ogden, Utah, home — where he also lived — Weaver knew she had no choice but to let her go.
"Saturday night, he called, saying he wanted her to go spend the night with him. He said, 'we can go out to eat at Chili’s,'" Weaver told Inside Edition.com.
Though she too was never excited about staying with her dad, the strong little girl told her mother not to worry.
“I said, 'are you sure?' I didn’t want her to go. Acelynn was like, ‘yea mom, it’s okay, I’ll be home early Sunday,” Weaver, 36, said. “That morning I got a knock on the door and it was a police officer. She said ‘we just found your 5-year-old daughter.’”
Instead of treating his daughter to a meal out, Sanchez allegedly woke her in the middle of the night and abandoned her on a local college campus in the early hours of Sunday, October 9, officials said.
For more than two hours, Acelynn waited in front of the Children School North building of the Ogden Weber Applied Technology College for her father, who never returned, surveillance footage showed.
Left with a few blankets and her father’s hoodie, the 5-year-old girl can be seen on the footage from 5:16 a.m. to 7:26 a.m. wandering in the dark, looking for someone and trying the nearby building’s door handle.
Eventually, the child can be seen making a bed on the concrete, crawling under a blanket and falling asleep in near-freezing temperatures. She was finally found by a security guard, who spotted the crying child after she had fallen and bloodied her knee, officials said.
“When [the security guard] asked her about why she was there, she told him that she and her daddy had been out looking for their dog and he had ‘passed out’ and she spent the night at the school,” the Ogden Weber Applied Technology College’s security incident report read.
She told police the same story, which Weaver said she believes is what Sanchez told his daughter.
“I think he told her that to make her stay put,” Weaver said. “He said he’s watching her and to not follow him.”
Weaver said she was told by Sanchez’s mother that he had plans to go to a nearby house to do drugs and wanted to bring Acelynn, but that she told him he couldn’t go.
“He wanted to take her to a bad place, a place where he goes and does drugs,” Weaver said. “So he tore up [his mother’s] room. When she woke up that morning, she noticed he and Acelynn were gone.”
Calls made by InsideEdition.com to Sanchez’s mother were not immediately returned.
Weaver said her daughter told her that Sanchez attempted to break into two separate homes before telling the 5-year-old girl she would have to sleep on a relative’s lawn, which Acelynn refused to do.
He then brought her to the college campus, Weaver said. Surveillance footage shows a man authorities have identified as Sanchez walking away from the little girl and toward the main exit road before disappearing from the camera’s view.
“I don’t know why [he brought her] there... I’ve been left with all the questions, and I don’t have the answers,” she said, crying as she recalled the many questions her daughter has been asking. “’Why did he do this?’ ‘I can’t believe my dad left me outside.’ ‘What if it was snowing?’”
Acelynn has returned to school since the incident, but the harrowing incident has stayed with her, Weaver said.
“She’s very strong and brave, she holds a smile when she’s around other people, but when she’s home, she breaks down,” she said. “She doesn’t want to be in any room by herself. She has to be by our side. Before, she was sleeping in her own bed in her own room. Now, she sleeps in my bed every night.”
Charges against Sanchez are pending, a spokesperson with the Ogden Police told InsideEdition.com, saying that investigators are currently searching for him.
Sanchez may face child abandonment charges, police said.
“I’m not letter her go there ever again, and I want him to be charged with every single thing possible,” Weaver said. “I don’t want him to get a slap on the hand. She could’ve been killed. She had to lie on the cold ground that night. She was left in the dark. No child deserves to be left in the dark.”