Missing girl’s rescue in upstate New York came as pivotal hours ticked by

by Chloe Baker
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Rescue Operation

In upstate New York, the harrowing search for 9-year-old Charlotte Sena, who had gone missing from a campground, culminated in a dramatic rescue operation. A tension-filled 34 hours had elapsed since Charlotte’s disappearance when a crucial breakthrough finally emerged.

At 4:20 a.m. on Monday, a vehicle approached the Sena family’s residence, located a short distance from the campground. Under the cloak of darkness, the driver placed a ransom note in the mailbox before departing. Law enforcement personnel, who had been vigilantly monitoring the girl’s home, observed this clandestine act.

Swiftly, officers rushed to the mailbox, where they carefully isolated fingerprints from the ransom note. Within hours, these prints were meticulously cross-referenced with a comprehensive New York state fingerprint database. The initial attempt yielded no results, but the second attempt proved decisive, establishing a connection between the print and the suspect, 46-year-old Craig Ross Jr., who had a white camper parked near a doublewide trailer two miles away.

Approximately 20 officers, including a specialized state police unit and an FBI SWAT team, swiftly descended upon the camper. They apprehended Craig Ross Jr. and, to their immense relief, discovered Charlotte concealed within a cabinet.

Governor Kathy Hochul provided crucial information during a news conference, stating that the breakthrough came at 2:30 in the afternoon. Notably, the fingerprint that led to Ross belonged to an individual previously stopped for drunk driving in Saratoga in 1999.

Ross’s vehicle was registered to an address merely two miles from the Sena residence in Greenfield. However, the rescue operation focused on his mother’s property, located approximately 10 miles away in Ballston Spa, where the doublewide trailer and white camper were situated.

The raid, executed by law enforcement officials, some with weapons drawn, unfolded at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, marked by shouts, loud noises, and flashes of light. It was a tense moment for the community, with neighbors like Carol Brown expressing disbelief. The sight of police descending on their street left them questioning the nature of the operation.

The pivotal moment arrived when Charlotte emerged from the camper, wrapped in a towel and accompanied by the police. This rescue occurred just as the clock struck the 48-hour mark since Charlotte’s disappearance—an exceptionally critical juncture in the search for any missing child.

Governor Hochul, reflecting on the rescue, emphasized the diminishing hope as each hour passed. The initial 24 hours offer a glimmer of hope, but beyond 48 hours, optimism wanes. Charlotte’s disappearance at Moreau State Park had been a nightmare for every parent.

Ross, who resisted arrest and suffered minor injuries, was charged with first-degree kidnapping and arraigned overnight in Milton, New York. He was detained without bail at the Saratoga County Correctional Facility. Authorities anticipate additional charges against him.

As of Tuesday, investigators had not established any connection between the suspect and Charlotte’s family.

Once Charlotte was safely recovered, her family expressed profound gratitude to the FBI, New York State Police, and all the agencies, volunteers, friends, and neighbors who tirelessly worked to bring her home. It was an outcome that had become increasingly uncertain with the passing hours, and one that Governor Hochul had feared might not materialize.

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