NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A 6-year-old who was abducted from her home in the Royal Palms community off Carolina Beach Road Wednesday night was found Thursday morning alive.
Officials said that she was found about two miles from where she was taken. A witness involved in the rescue efforts said she had been chained to a tree in a wooded area off River Road.
The witness said authorities flagged him down on River Road while driving to work to ask if he had any bolt cutters. He didn’t have the tool but offered a battery-operated saw instead to cut the girl free.
The man said he walked back and saw the 6-year-old lying on her back. He said she did not say a word and seemed very calm.
Officials said she is doing well, but family and friends say she has a long road to recovery ahead of her. She was released from the hospital Friday.
Those who visited her said she was smiling and happy to be reunited with her family. They also said she was covered in “extreme” mosquito bites.
Douglas Edwards, 46 of Wilmington, was picked up in New Hanover County Thursday morning and is facing first-degree kidnapping and indecent liberties charges. Edwards made his first court appearance Friday morning. His bond is set at $9 million, according to jail records.
State Troopers, FBI agents, and detectives set up several checkpoints Thursday evening. They were canvassing the area for more information about the abduction.
Officers hoped people driving through the area had also driven by around the same time on Wednesday when the abduction occurred. The checkpoint was less than two miles from where the abduction happened, and less than a mile from where the little girl was found.
Law enforcement is eager to bring justice to this case.
“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.”
While authorities would not release any more public information on Edwards outside of a courtroom, he is listed on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. According to public records, Edwards was convicted in 1996 of first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a minor. The victim in that case was six-years-old at the time.
McMahon said Edwards was under surveillance all night Wednesday and officials took him into custody Thursday morning but would not say where. McMahon says the community stepped forward to help with leads.
“I have a granddaughter at that age,” McMahon said, getting emotional at the news conference. “It’s personal when this is in our community and this stuff doesn’t normally happen, so this is very personal and it should be to everybody.”
A spokesperson for New Hanover Regional Medical Center sent along the following statement from the girl’s family.
We would like to first and foremost thank God, the police department, the sheriff’s office and all the communities that went out to search for her in the rain and on their own time. Thank you to our neighbors and friends and St. Mary’s Church who were praying for her and any others who were praying for her.
The family asked for privacy while they rejoice in her return.
Detectives and a handcuffed Edwards revisited the wooded area off River Road around 3 p.m. Thursday, hours after authorities found the missing girl.
EDITOR’S NOTE: WECT has a policy to not name victims of a sexual related crime unless the victim gives permission. In the circumstance of this situation, the name of the victim was released during an Amber Alert. When the nature of the charges against the suspect became known at a later time, we worked to minimize the use of the victim’s identity. We are eliminating the identity from this story and subsequent follow up stories in this situation.
Copyright 2016 WECT. All rights reserved.