April 13, 2024
While the rest of Charlotte’s family remained at the campground where she had gone missing, police watching their home saw someone put a note in their mailbox at 4:20 a.m. Monday.

By MICHAEL HILL and LISA BAUMANN | Associated Press

MOREAU, N.Y. (AP) — The suspect in the kidnapping of a 9-year-old girl who vanished during a family camping trip in upstate New York was caught after he left a ransom note at her family’s home, police said.

This photo provided by her family on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, shows Charlotte Sena, 9, who vanished during a camping trip in upstate New York. (Family photo via AP) 

Charlotte Sena was “safe and in good health” Monday after a massive two-day search ended with her rescue and the arrest of a person suspected in her abduction, police said. The man, who lived in a neighboring town, was identified as Craig Nelson Ross Jr., 47.

Charlotte disappeared while riding her bike Saturday at Moreau Lake State Park, north of Albany.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday night during a news conference that investigators were able to identify a fingerprint from a ransom note allegedly left by the suspect. “What happened was extraordinary,” she said.

She said that while the rest of Charlotte’s family remained at the campground where she went missing, police watching their home in Porter Corners, about 12 miles away, saw someone put a note in their mailbox at 4:20 a.m. Monday.

State police pulled fingerprints off the note and one matched Ross, who was in a database from a 1999 DWI case, Hochul said.

Law enforcement agents linked Ross to a property owned by his mother in Milton, 10 miles south of Porter Corners. They  made entry and found him in a camper at about 6:30 p.m., she said.

“After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody and immediately the little girl was found in a cabinet,” Hochul said. “She knew she was being rescued. She knew that she was in safe hands.”

Charlotte was taken to a hospital, as is customary, Hochul said, adding that she appeared physically unharmed and that she and her family have been reunited.

Officials at Saratoga County Jail said Ross was arraigned Tuesday morning on a first-degree kidnapping charge.

The rescue marked the end of an intense search. About 400 people took part in the hunt for the girl Monday, including forest rangers, police officers and firefighters.

Charlotte had been riding her bike around a campsite loop in the park with other children when she decided to ride around one more time by herself. Her parents became alarmed when she failed to return after 15 minutes, Hochul said at a briefing Sunday.

The girl’s mother called 911 after her bicycle was found at around 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

Officials issued an Amber Alert on Sunday morning after an exhaustive search because “it was quite possible that an abduction had taken place,” state police Lt. Colonel Richard Mazzone said.

Troopers had set up several checkpoints on the winding, rural roads around the park. They stopped drivers and asked if they knew the family, had seen the girl’s photo or had any other information that could help the search. They also had some drivers open their trunks.

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AP writer Lisa Baumann contributed from Bellingham, Washington.

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