Abducted girl Charlotte Sena found after clue on ransom note

New York State Police issued an Amber Alert for the nine-year-old
New York State Police issued an Amber Alert for the nine-year-old

A nine-year-old girl who vanished during a family camping trip in upstate New York was “safe and in good health” on Monday after a massive two-day search ended with her rescue and the arrest of a person suspected in her abduction, police said.

Charlotte Sena disappeared while riding her bike early on Saturday evening at Moreau Lake State Park, a heavily wooded area some 35 miles north of Albany.

Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday night during a news conference that investigators were able to identify a fingerprint from a ransom note allegedly left by the suspect she identified as Craig Nelson Ross Jr., 47.

“What happened was extraordinary,” she said.

She said while the rest of Charlotte’s family remained at the campground where she had gone missing, police watching their home saw someone drop a note in their mailbox at 4.20am local time on Monday.

State police pulled fingerprints off the note and the second one matched Mr Ross, who was in a database from a 1999 drink-driving case, Gov. Hochul said.

Officers linked Mr Ross to a property owned by his mother, made entry and found him in a trailer at about 6.30pm local time, she said.

“After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody and immediately the little girl was found in a cabinet,” Gov. Hochul said.

“She knew she was being rescued. She knew that she was in safe hands.”

Charlotte Sena went missing on Saturday while riding her bike
Charlotte Sena went missing on Saturday while riding her bike

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

“It just feels like a miracle that little Charlotte is safely reunited with her parents,” Ms. Hochul said.

No charges have been brought against Mr Ross, but they are expected, Gov. Hochul said.

Mr Ross was still being questioned on Monday night. The governor named Mr Ross as the suspect late on Monday night and it wasn’t immediately known if he had a lawyer to comment on his behalf.

Authorities said it was still an active investigation.

The rescue marked the end of an intense search. About 400 people took part in the hunt for the girl on Monday, including forest rangers, police officers and firefighters. The search had expanded over 46 linear miles and saw troops set up several checkpoints on winding, rural roads in the area.

Charlotte, from nearby Greenfield, had been riding her bike around a campsite loop at the Moreau Lake State Park with other children prior to her disappearance. She went missing after deciding to go around the loop one more time by herself.

Her parents became alarmed when she failed to return after 15 minutes, Gov. Hochul said at a briefing on Sunday. The girl’s mother called police after her bicycle was found.

Charlotte Sena
Charlotte Sena

Before her discovery, Charlotte’s family had asked members of the public to share her photo widely in a bid to track her down.

“Any information would help,” said Jené Luciani-Sena, Charlotte’s aunt, in a video posted on TikTok on Sunday evening.

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.

“No detail is too small when searching for a missing child,” authorities said in a statement as they appealed for tips.