Charlotte Sena found alive after 9-year-old went missing on camping trip

Nine-year-old went missing on Saturday during camping trip at Moreau Lake State Park

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
,Martha McHardy
Tuesday 03 October 2023 00:11 BST
Search for girl who was camping with family

Charlotte Sena, a nine-year-old girl who went missing while on a camping trip in upstate New York over the weekend, has been found alive.

“Charlotte has been found safe and in good health,” the New York State Police announced on Monday.

Police said Craig Nelson Ross Jr, 47, was charged with kidnap and is being held without bail.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the missing nine-year-old was found hidden in a cabinet in a campervan behind the suspect’s mother’s residence.

The governor said the break in the case came at around 4.20am ET on Monday when the suspect drove to the home of Charlotte’s parents and left a ransom note.

“He literally drove up to the family’s mailbox assuming they were not home,” governor Hochul said, adding that Charlotte’s parents were still searching the campground at the time, and officers who were monitoring the property had been sent to another call in the area.

Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office released mug shot of Craig Nelson Ross Jr
Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office released mug shot of Craig Nelson Ross Jr (Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office)

Police later tested the note for fingerprints and searched law enforcement databases to see if they could find a match, and identified the suspect as 47-year-old Craig Nelson Ross Jr.

The governor also told CNN authorities used “cell phone pings” from people in the area where the nine-year-old was last spotted to help find the suspect.

“They were checking all the different cell phones that have been in the vicinity of this park,” she said.

The governor said authorities also had information from those who came to the park as campers because they had to register and people there for the day paid an entrance fee.

Charlotte Sena
Charlotte Sena (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

“So, you could start circling around possible suspects based on the cell phone data, who is in the park and also then ultimately, the ransom note,” she said.

Investigators used two SWAT teams to make entry into the suspect’s campervan, the governor said. “They had what they call a dynamic entry tactical maneuver, and within the camper they located the suspect.”

“It was extraordinary to see how they traced it down to an individual’s home,” the governor added. “The home was surrounded by law enforcement and helicopters, and they were able to bring her to safety. And not long after, she was in the arms of her parents at a hospital.”

Governor Hochul said police arrested the suspect, who “resisted” being taken into custody and sustained minor injuries, and charged him with first-degree kidnapping.

Sena’s family was seen on Monday evening clapping and celebrating the 9-year-old’s safe return.

The child was last seen on Saturday taking a solo bike ride during a camping trip at Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County.

Her family later discovered her abandoned bike.

The search for Charlotte included New York Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers, New York State Police, the FBI, involving an estimated 400 search and rescue personnel.

Assistance also came from 34 volunteer fire departments.

All told, the search area spanned over 46 linear miles.

An AMBER Alert was issued for Charlotte after she disappeared.

The governor pleaded with the public for help locating the missing child.

“We are leaving no stone, no branch, no table, no cabin unturned, untouched, unexamined in our search to find Charlotte,” Governor Hochul said at a press conference on Sunday. “If you know anything, if you’ve seen anything, if you hear anything, please contact 911 to tell us what you know.”

“They camped, they cooked out and they’re here to make memories, the kind that lasts a lifetime,” she added.. “But instead, the day turned into every parent’s nightmare.”

The park in which Charlotte went missing is more than 6,200 acres.

Moreau Lake State Park temporarily closed while authorities searched for Charlotte.

Police also manned checkpoints on roads nearby and searched passing vehicles.

A GoFundMe page for the Sena family raised over $17,000.

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