A two-year manhunt in a case that captivated the city ended Thursday when cops busted a young man who heartlessly abandoned the baby he had fathered with a 14-year-old girl
, 29, fled the city in February 2008 after scheming with crooked cabbie Klever Sailema to ditch his doe-eyed baby girl at a Queens firehouse.
The sad fate of little Daniella, then just 6 months old, tugged at the heartstrings of millions when her picture ran on the front page of the Daily News.
"We've been after him for two years," a police source said. "He kept running, and we just kept missing him."
Cardenas, who has been charged with rape for fathering Daniella with a teenage runaway, recently slipped back into Manhattan, where he was hiding out in Washington Heights and living under the alias Fabiano Castillo.
After detectives learned the foolish fugitive had returned to the city, they collared him on the street, outside his pad, yesterday afternoon, the sources said.
Cardenas hatched his cowardly plan with Sailema - who was dating Cardenas' sister - after whining to his super about how Daniella's mother had left him alone with the baby.
Yesterday, Cardenas chalked his arrest up to "bad luck" as detectives led him out of the NYPD's Bronx special victims unit.
Sailema was briefly hailed as a hero before he was arrested after admitting to police that his entire story was a lie. He was charged, but the case was dismissed.
Days after Sailema owned up to his shame, Daniella and her mom were sent back to the mother's home in Maryland, where both were in the care of the state's Department of Social Services.
In September 2009, Sailema was sentenced to 5-1/2 years for attempted rape.