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How Police Were Able to Find 9yo Girl Abducted from Campsite 

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It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You’re camping with your family and friends when your child goes for “one more lap” around the campgrounds on her bike only for her not to return.

Nine-year-old Charlotte Sena was camping at Moreau Lake State Park in New York when she went missing. The young girl had been riding her bike around the campsite with friends when she decided to do one more loop on her own.

She was last seen biking away at 6:15pm.

When she didn’t return after a few minutes, her parents went searching for her.

At 6:45 pm they found her bike abandoned on the trail and called the police. In just 30 minutes, someone had grabbed Charlotte and took her.

She disappeared almost into thin air. I mean it was minutes, minutes, between when she was last seen and when she wasn’t there anymore,” Jene Sena, Charott’s aunt said.

The search for Charlotte Sena 

mum centralFor two days more than 400 forest rangers, police officers, firefighters and FBI agents searched for Charlotte. Her distraught family anxiously got involved too and continued to comb the campground for signs of their daughter.

Drones, bloodhounds, and an airboat were deployed to look for the missing nine-year-old. The day after Charlotte disappeared, an Amber Alert was also issued.

Amber Alert for girl abducted from campsite, Charlotte Sena
Charlotte Sena was abducted from campsite at Moreau Lake State Park. Source: Twitter

Ransom note leads to finding Charlotte

While Charlotte’s family remained at Moreau Lake State Park, police monitored the Sena household in Greenfield, NY. At 4:20 am on Monday morning, less than two days after Charlotte was abducted, someone dropped a ransom note into the Sena family mailbox.

While police were unable to identify who the person was, they did see the note being dropped and managed to pull fingerprints off the note. Police matched the prints to Craig Nelson Ross Jr., 47,  who was fingerprinted in 1999 for driving while under the influence.

The evidence led police to Ross’ place of residence – a caper van parked behind his mother’s home. Inside the campervan, hidden in a cabinet, was Charlotte.

Child abducted from campsite
Source: FoxNews

After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody and immediately the little girl was found in a cabinet,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “She knew she was being rescued. She knew that she was in safe hands.”

Sena was taken to a local hospital, as is customary, and is safe, well, and reunited with her family.

Ross has been charged with first-degree kidnapping, though additional charges are likely, state police said.

This investigation is a culmination of multiple agencies working together for the common goal of bringing this child home to her loving family,” state police said.

We are so happy to hear that Charlotte has been found and is safe and well. What a scary experience for the family and for young Charlotte.

Preplanned abduction

The ex-girlfriend of Ross suspected that Ross targeted Charlotte Sena and the Sena family for a ransom because he knew about Charlotte’s grandfather’s $2.2 million lawsuit settlement from a sledding accident.

mum central
Charlotte’s alleged kidnapper. Source: New York State Police

Amanda Preece, who briefly dated Ross Jr., told The Daily Mail that he “never wanted to work” and “always wanted to find people to mooch off of.”

Ross allegedly demanded $500,000 in the ransom note.

Charlotte’s grandfather sued the town of Greenfield years ago, and people around Saratoga are aware of this,” Preece told DailyMail.com. “I think that’s why he held her ransom, he was hoping to get some of the money because he’s struggling financially.

That kind of money would set him up for around four or five years. He had been following her family, he knew where they lived. He watched her until she went around one last time and scooped her up. I feel he definitely had this pre-planned,” she said.

The investigation is ongoing.


Child abduction cases are a lot more common in America than in Australia but it’s still important to be aware that these awful things can happen.

If you ever lose your child in a crowded area, we suggest calling out what your child is wearing rather than their name. This alerts others around you to look for a child in that outfit. Calling a child’s name, which is what most of us would do if we lost our child, doesn’t help strangers assist in the search. Calling out the outfit does.

We also recommend smartwatches with GPS for children as you can see where your child is through the app at any time.

When out with your children, always make a plan if you do get separated (it can happen quicker than you think). Under a tree at the beach. Next to a park bench at the playground. Next to the self-checkouts in Kmart. In front of the cafe at a busy trampoline park. Try to keep the same meeting place every time you visit that specific location.

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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