Suspect in girl's abduction from New York state park was found through fingerprints on ransom note, governor says

The 9-year-old girl who authorities suspected was abducted Saturday in an upstate New York state park was found alive, state police said Monday night.

“Charlotte Sena has been located and in good health,” state police said in a statement. A suspect is in custody, state police said.

Speaking at a news conference, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said someone dropped off a ransom note at the home of the girl’s parents, and a fingerprint found on it led to a nearby residence where the suspect was found.

“He literally drove up to the family’s mailbox … at 4:20 in the morning,” to drop off the note, the governor said.

The suspect was apprehended Monday evening with the help of two SWAT teams in a “dynamic entry” to his living quarters, an RV trailer, at a site where his mother also resides, she said.

The girl was ultimately found safe hiding in a cupboard in the trailer, Hochul said. “She knew she was in safe hands,” Hochul said.

The suspect was identified as Craig Nelson Ross Jr., 37. A state police official said he suffered minor injuries when he allegedly resisted arrest.

On Monday night, state police said, investigators learned of a person who was “in the area” of Moreau Lake State Park about the time Charlotte went missing. Multiple residences where the person was known to stay were searched, state police said.

Charlotte was found safe and in good health at 6:32 p.m., state police said, and the suspect was arrested.

“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.

The investigation continues, state police said. Officials plan to hold a news conference Tuesday, they said.

NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren posted video on social media of the girl’s family clapping and cheering Monday night at the news that Charlotte had been found safe. Multiple people in the video offered thank-yous.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul praised investigators on social media for a swift resolution.

“After a 48-hour-long search, Charlotte Sena has been found. Extremely grateful to @nyspolice, @NYStateParks police, and all of our partners who worked tirelessly to locate Charlotte and ensure she could return home safely to her family,” Hochul wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Charlotte was riding a bike by herself at the state park in Saratoga County on Saturday night when she disappeared.

Shortly before, she had been camping with her family when she was last seen around 6:15 p.m., state police said.

Charlotte Sena.
Charlotte Sena.Courtesy Jené Sena

She was biking around a park loop with family friends and then did a loop by herself, authorities said. Her bike was found on the loop.

State police activated an Amber Alert on Sunday “for a child abduction” that occurred around 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

Circumstances of the girl’s disappearance led police to suspect she was in “imminent danger of serious harm and/or death,” according to the Amber Alert.

State police said earlier Monday that about 400 certified search-and-rescue personnel were looking for the girl over 46 linear miles.

The FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service were assisting, state police said.

The investigation was classified as a missing child case, state police said.

Jene Sena, Charlotte’s aunt, told NBC News on Monday that her niece vanished in only minutes.

“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,” Sena said.

The state park where Charlotte disappeared from is about 50 miles north of Albany.