Rescue of missing 9-year-old girl came 2 days after she was abducted from Moreau State Park
Editor’s note: This story has been updated Oct. 4 at 4 pm to remove the girl’s name.
MOREAU — A 9-year-old girl was found alive Monday evening and a suspect in her abduction was arrested after police tracked him to a camper trailer at a property in Milton, according to State Police.
Law enforcement sources had told the Times Union that the suspect, 46-year-old Craig Ross Jr., allegedly left a ransom note at the girl’s parents’ house before dawn on Monday — and that fingerprints on that note helped lead to his arrest. Gov. Kathy Hochul confirmed that information late Monday night, saying at a news conference with State Police that Ross had dropped a ransom note in the mailbox at the family’s residence around 4:20 a.m. Monday.
State troopers recovered the note after Ross left the area. At about 2 p.m. on Monday, a fingerprint on the note was matched to fingerprints from Ross’ arrest in Saratoga Springs in 1999 for driving while intoxicated.
The governor said there is no indication yet that Ross had any connection to the girl’s family.
Police raided a number of locations tied to Ross late Monday afternoon, including the mobile home on Barrett Road where his mother lives and the adjacent trailer where she was found.
The governor said a vehicle registration for Ross also listed an address that was a short distance from the family.
State Police said that Ross suffered minor injuries when he struggled as he was arrested by a State Police Special Operations Response Team at the Barrett Road residence on Monday evening. An FBI SWAT team assisted in the apprehension and rescue.
The State Police said the girl was “in good health.” A source said the girl was taken via ambulance to Albany Medical Center Hospital.
The State Police issued a statement Monday evening saying the girl had been found and that more information would be released later. A couple hours before that notice was issued, a large contingent of State Police had gathered at a parking lot at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center off Route 50.
Roughly 20 unmarked State Police vehicles, military-style tactical vehicles and at least one helicopter were there along with troopers who were dressed in camouflage and appeared to be SWAT team members. State Police blocked off Barrett Road on Monday evening and prevented motorists from entering the residential street.
The arrest was made less than three hours after State Police said the search had expanded over 46 linear miles. Approximately 400 certified search and rescue personnel from dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as fire departments, were actively searching for her. The state Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers were leading the search, the update said.
State Police sources on Monday told the Times Union that the investigation was focused on the theory that the girl had been abducted. They also said the investigation was focused on whether her abduction may have been the result of someone deliberately targeting the girl or her family.
An Amber Alert sent around 9:35 a.m. Sunday said “the child was taken under circumstances that lead police to believe that they are in imminent danger of serious harm and/or death.” Multiple following alerts went out on people’s phones between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning with the same update — that Charlotte’s height and eye color were wrong in the original alert.
A senior investigator told the Times Union late Monday afternoon that the investigation is largely focused on theories that the child was pulled into a vehicle against her will or dragged into the woods.
As media gathered Monday, a wide variety of first responders were seen coming and going through the park entrance. They included State Police cars, communications vehicles, SUVs from a host of area fire companies and a South Glens Falls school bus likely carrying people to aid in the search effort. Groups of State Parks Police officers and state troopers could be seen periodically searching the forest edges on both sides of Old Saratoga Road, often with dogs.