TORRANCE – A California man convicted in connection to the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 2-year-old girl in 2015 was sentenced Wednesday to 55 years to life in prison.
Michael David Ikeler, 38, of Torrance, was convicted last month on a count of lewd act upon a child under the age of 14 and two counts of sexual penetration of a child under age 10, according to Sarah Ardalani of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges in September 2015 and was ordered to stand trial. A jury found him guilty on the three counts on Jan. 27, Ardalani said.
“He’s a monster. He’s full of evil. No child should go through this,” the victim’s mother, who only gave her name as Marisol, said through tears outside the courthouse on Wednesday. “I hope he dies and rots in jail. Hope he gets what he deserves.”
Ikeler was arrested one week after the April 2, 2015, kidnapping of a toddler who was dropped off in an alley hours after her disappearance from a self-serve carwash 14929 Western Ave in Gardena.
Her mother frantically called 911 after the woman's older daughter told her she had vanished, authorities said at the time he was charged.
The girl's disappearance prompted a massive search that police called "an unprecedented response."
She was located approximately 2 1/2 hours later about 8 miles away in a parking lot in Cudahy. A woman who found the little girl said she was sitting on the ground, alone, next to a dumpster.
The child was naked and kept covering her eyes, the woman said, noting she appeared to be in shock.
Graphic images of the child's injuries had to be shown in court to prove his DNA was all over her body. Relatives described it an excruciating moment for the family.
"I look back and I don't even know how I could sit there," said Connie Espino, the victim's cousin. "To this day, I myself have nightmares."
After she was found, the little girl was taken to a hospital and treated for unspecified injuries. She was then reunited with her family.
Today, Marisol said, her daughter is "doing so good. She's a very happy child."
A neighbor who saw Ikeler altering a car that matched the description of the one sought by police called investigators three days later. Police said they linked him to the crime through DNA evidence, as did multiple witnesses and his car.
Investigators "worked day and night ... to find the person responsible for this horrific attack," the police news release stated.