The man suspected of abducting a 9-year-old girl at a park in Upstate New York, setting off a frantic search that ended Monday night in Charlotte Sena’s safe return after she was missing for 48 hours, has been charged with kidnapping.
State Police said Monday night that investigators had identified a suspect in the girl’s disappearance before searching homes where the person had lived. At about 6:30 p.m. Monday, police found Charlotte safe and in good health, they said. Charlotte appeared to be “physically unharmed” after she was abducted from her family on a camping trip in Moreau Lake State Park, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said at a news conference late Monday.
Authorities said the search ended after Ross left a ransom note at the house of the girl’s family. Investigators were able to identify Ross as a suspect thanks to a fingerprint left on that note.
Jené Sena, Charlotte’s aunt, said in a statement to The Post on Tuesday that the family was relieved Charlotte was found safe and alive.
“We are thrilled that she has been brought home, and we understand that the outcome is not what every family gets,” Sena said.
The New York State Police said in a news release that additional charges were expected to be brought against Ross. The investigation remains ongoing, police said, and there is no news conference scheduled for Tuesday. Hochul and police said there is no immediate indication that Ross has a connection to Charlotte’s family.
If convicted, Ross could face up to life in prison. The minimum sentence for a conviction of first-degree kidnapping in New York is 15 to 40 years in prison, according to state law.
It’s unclear whether Ross has an attorney. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 17, according to WNYT, an NBC affiliate in Albany. His mug shot was released early Tuesday.
The girl’s disappearance began with a bike ride and ended with a police rescue.
Charlotte had been camping Saturday in Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County, about 50 miles north of Albany, when she went on a bike ride with family friends before dinner. Charlotte was biking with friends on a couple of bike loops and “just wanted to go around one more time by herself, be that big girl and do it by herself,” Hochul said at a news conference Sunday.
When Charlotte didn’t return shortly after she left at about 6:15 p.m. Saturday, “her parents knew immediately something was up” and mounted a search 15 minutes later, Hochul told reporters. Her bike was found on the loop at 6:45 p.m., said New York State Police Lt. Col. Richard Mazzone. Minutes later, her mother called 911 to report that Charlotte was missing, Mazzone added.
Her disappearance set off a frantic search near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with more than 400 people looking for the fourth-grader in a park that spans 6,250 acres. State police issued an Amber Alert for Charlotte on Sunday, saying authorities were investigating the case as an abduction.
The “case started to break at 4:20 a.m.” Monday, Hochul said, after a person drove to Charlotte’s family home near the state park and dropped off a “ransom note.” At about 2:30 p.m., investigators matched a fingerprint on the letter to an arrest from a 1999 DWI case, leading them to the suspect’s home that he shared with his mother.
At about 6:30 p.m., police entered that home.
“After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody,” Hochul said. “The little girl was found in a cabinet or cupboard.”
Col. Richard S. Allen of the New York State Police said that the suspect had “minor” injuries after the arrest and that he was not a registered sex offender. But Hochul echoed the family’s relief that the girl was found safe.
“Charlotte will be going home,” the governor said late Monday.
In honor of Charlotte’s return, students at Corinth Central School District, where Charlotte goes to school, will be wearing orange on Tuesday.
“Celebrate the safe return of Charlotte by wearing your orange!!!” the district wrote on Facebook.
The girl’s aunt told The Post that the family was grateful for the agencies that were able to give Charlotte’s loved ones a happy ending.
“A huge thank you to the FBI, the New York State Police, all of the agencies that were mobilized, all of the families, friends, and hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly to bring Charlotte home,” Sena said.
Source: Washington Post
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