A car thief smashed the window of a car left idling in front of an Oxon Hill check cashing agency yesterday, speeding away with a 4-year-old girl in the back seat as her father conducted business inside, police said.

An 18-year-old District man was arrested a few hours later, shortly after he dropped the child off unharmed at Assumption Day Care, in the 3700 block of Martin Luther King Avenue SE, according to D.C. police Lt. Martin B. Davis. The car was found abandoned a short distance away.

Richard E. Lee, of the 3300 block of Sixth Street SE, was charged in the District with being a fugitive from justice from Maryland and with two outstanding warrants, according to D.C. police. Prince George's police charged Lee with felony theft and abduction, Davis said.

The drama began shortly after noon, on the Prince George's County side of the 800 block of Southern Avenue, which divides the city and the suburb.

Nathaniel Browne, of Virginia, told police that he was taking his daughter, Jaromi Francine Browne, for a medical appointment when he stopped to cash a check. Browne told investigators that he left the girl in the car, with the motor and air conditioning running, but locked the doors before he stepped into the check cashing establishment.

While he was cashing his check, a young man who was riding a bicycle smashed the front driver's side window of his dark-blue, 1990 four-door Chevy Lumina, jumped into the vehicle and drove away.

It was unclear yesterday whether the man who stole the car knew the girl was in the back seat when he drove off.

A woman employed by the check cashing business, Jacqueline Carver, told reporters that Browne screamed and ran after the car as it sped away.

Police were called and began an extensive search for the car. Shortly after 1 p.m., D.C. police found it in an alley behind the 700 block of Chesapeake Street SE, about two blocks from where it had been stolen. The alley appeared to be a graveyard for stolen cars; three other cars, all of them stripped to some degree, stood in the alley yesterday.

Lee was arrested shortly after the car was found.

Staff writer Sewell Chan contributed to this report.