A six-year-old girl who was abducted from her North Carolina home has been found alive and chained to a tree. A convicted sex offender has been arrested and charged with first-degree kidnapping.
Police found Steffany Lenneth Lopez-Castro chained to a tree in a wooded area in New Hanover County on Thursday morning, about 2 miles (3.2km) from where she was taken from the driveway of her home the previous night, local CBS affiliate WNCN reported.
After locating the girl, police flagged down a nearby driver, asking if he had bolt cutters. The man gave officers a battery-operated saw to cut the child free.
The child was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and is said to be doing well.
“We beat the odds today, it’s safe to say,” Sheriff Edward McMahon said during a news conference. “We worked tirelessly, relentlessly through the night and I am glad to say, thank the Lord, we found her this morning alive and well.”
McMahon said the community assisted in the successful search and rescue operation, after coming forward with various leads.
Douglas Edwards, a 46-year-old registered sex offender, has been taken into custody and charged with first-degree kidnapping.
Edwards was arrested while riding a moped about 7 miles from the scene on Thursday morning, after being under surveillance for the entire night. Authorities said he did not know the child before her disappearance.
The 46-year-old was convicted of first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a minor in 1996. That victim was also six years old, according to the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. Edwards spent 16 years in prison for the crime and was released in May 2012.