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Charlotte Sena, a 9-year-old girl from Saratoga County, went missing Saturday while on a camping trip with family in upstate New York. Police suspected that she had been abducted and was "in imminent danger of serious harm and/or death."
Hundreds of first responders, family members, and friends scoured Moreau Lake State Park and the surrounding area for the girl, hoping to find the child unscathed.
Following a tactical raid on a trailer just miles away from the family's home, New York State Police announced Monday night that the fourth-grader had been found "safe and in good health."
According to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Charlotte's "abductor is behind bars."
While police employed various high-tech aids in their search, it appears what ultimately led them to the girl was the suspect's brazenness.
What's the background?
TheBlaze previously reported that the NYSP issued an AMBER Alert Sunday morning, indicating that the girl, from Greenfield, New York, had been abducted on Saturday around 6:45 p.m. near Moreau Lake State Park, Loop A, Site 18, in Gansevoort. The alert noted the girl "was taken under circumstances that lead police to believe that they are in imminent danger of serious harm and/or death."
Missing posters noted that the girl is blonde, green-eyed, 4 feet 6 inches tall and 90 pounds, and had last been seen wearing her bike helmet, an orange Pokemon shirt, and dark blue pants.
Charlotte Sena was out bike-riding with friends but had elected to do one more loop down a paved road, which cut through a heavily wooded area.
When she didn't return after 15 minutes, her family began looking for her.
Police indicated that her bicycle was located in Loop A around 6:45. Two minutes later, her mom called 911 to report Charlotte missing.
Bloodhounds, divers, forest rangers, air boats, ATVs, and drones were deployed in the search that followed, which ultimately involved roughly 400 people. The FBI and 34 volunteer fire departments also jumped in to assist state and local law enforcement.
Moreau Lake State Park was closed to the public, and the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily restricted the airspace over the park to protect search aircraft.
Trisha, Charlotte Sena's mother, told the Albany Times Union her daughter is a "good kid" and "trusting," stressing, "I just want my daughter back."
The Sena family told NBC News in a statement, "We just want her returned safely like any parent would. No tip is too small, please call if you know anything at all."
Hochul told CNN that around 4:20 a.m. on Monday, the suspect "literally drove up to the family's mailbox assuming they were not home" and left an apparent ransom note.
The NYSP had been monitoring the home while the child's parents continued their search in Monreau Lake State Park. However, when the suspect hand-delivered the note, police were absent, having reportedly been called to another scene. While thus able to slip away, the suspect unwittingly left critical evidence behind: his fingerprints on the letter.
"That was instrumental in leading us directly to the suspect," added Hochul.
The police reportedly tested the note for fingerprints and searched law enforcement databases for a match. Although unsuccessful in their first attempt, the second search resulted in an apparent match to fingerprints from a 1999 DUI conviction in Saratoga, according to Newsweek.
After investigators identified 46-year-old Craig Nelson Ross Jr. as their suspect and ascertained that he was living in a trailer behind his mother's home on Barrett Road, Milton, two SWAT teams were dispatched.
Around 20 Special Operations Response Team members and an FBI SWAT team reportedly made entry just after 6 p.m. on Monday.
"They had what they call a dynamic entry tactical maneuver, and within the camper they located the suspect," said Hochul.
Ross got banged up in the process, having reportedly resisted arrest.
Police found the 9-year-old stowed away in a cabinet in the trailer.
"She knew she was being rescued," said Hochul. "She knew she was in safe hands."
"Law enforcement teams were relentless in finding this little girl — putting the pieces together and leaving no cabin unturned — to bring Charlotte home to her parents," Hochul wrote on X. "Charlotte is safe and her abductor is behind bars tonight."
The Albany Times Union indicated that Ross' arrest was made less than three hours after NYSP said the search had been expanded over 46 linear miles.
It is unclear whether Ross knew of the Sena family prior to the abduction; however, Newsweek noted that his car registration is listed at an address near the Sena family home.
FBI joins search for missing 9-year-old Charlotte Senayoutu.be
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.