HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Police are investigating after a woman allegedly tried to burn a car with her three daughters inside it.
Gerardo Cortez regrets what may have happened if his business would have been empty Sunday evening.
He owns El Rey Car Wash in the 4000 block of West Orem Drive in southwest Houston. Around 8 p.m. Cortez says he noticed Ana Ester Segovia pacing around her car and her three daughters were inside.
When he saw Segovia behaving strangely and heard one of the girls crying, he moved towards a trash bin near Segovia's car.
"I started emptying the trash bin slowly to see what was going on inside the car," Cortez told FOX 26 News in Spanish.
Cortez says when the girls tried to get out of the car, Segovia would force them back inside. He adds when one of the girls got out, Segovia grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back inside.
Cortez says eventually Segovia got inside the car and began revving the engine until it caught on fire. One of the girls managed to open a door and everyone got out. Cortez says about 20 customers were around and everybody began calling police and firefighters. Witnesses reported hearing the mom say, "we're going to see Jesus."
Once Segovia was out of the car with the girls, she ran away with them. As Segovia was leaving the car wash, Cortez says she turned around and addressed the bystanders.
"That's when she said - she invited us all to come with her to go to heaven," Cortez said.
Police say she started going west on Orem where a Precinct 7 Deputy Constable intercepted her. Investigators say she then abandoned the 11-year-old and 13-year-old and dragged the 9-year-old toward a bayou. According to deputies, she tripped and fell and ran briefly before the deputy constable took her into custody.
She is charged with three counts of aggravated assault on a family member. A mental health evaluation is pending.
A friend of Segovia who did not want to be identified is in disbelief and heartbroken by the news. The friend says Segovia called her after attending church on Sunday and Segovia and the girls seemed happy.
"She's a loving mother. Nobody could tell me in a million years that would have happened. Never. She didn't spank her kids, she loved them, she worked hard. She had a good job," the friend told FOX 26 News.
The friend believes Segovia was going through a difficult time. She hopes Segovia can get the help she needs.
"She was just really not all the way herself, but she wasn't being bad with her children or nothing," the friend added.
The friend also says she's upset at the comments directed at her friend on social media.
"If y'all knew her, y'all wouldn't say those things. Y'all would know something is wrong. It's not her," she added.