According to authorities, New York police were armed with a suspect car description hours before crime lab results led them to recognise Craig Ross Jr. as the man accused of snatching 9-year-old Charlotte Sena from her bicycle on a park trail Saturday.
They were keeping an eye on her parent’s property when a suspicious motorist drove up and placed something into their mailbox. With extensive media coverage of her Saturday evening disappearance and an outpouring of support for the family, it wasn’t the first car to pass that night.
According to officials, it stuck out to the soldier standing guard.
“One particular vehicle that had slowed and stopped briefly looked suspicious to the trooper,” said Stephanie O’Neil, a New York State Police public information officer.
So, after the coast was clear, the trooper moved in for a closer inspection.
“Upon finding the letter, they immediately communicated the vehicle’s description to the non-commissioned officer in charge, and a ‘be on the lookout’ (BOLO) was issued to all surrounding patrols,” O’Neil told Fox New Digital.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said it happened around 4:20 a.m. She said forensic detectives had linked fingerprints obtained from the note to a 1999 drunken driving suspect, Craig Nelson Ross Jr., about 14 hours later.
The Saratoga Performing Arts Centre, a vast amphitheatre 6 miles away from where tactical teams would eventually rescue Charlotte from a cabinet in Ross’ derelict camper in his mother’s garden, was set up as a staging area by police.
According to O’Neil, numerous tactical police from New York state and federal law enforcement were called in, with many driving and two teams flown in by helicopter. Charlotte had been found alive by 6:30 p.m., and state police were interviewing Ross.
Critics have questioned why the trooper did not arrest the suspect when he snooped into the Sena home while the family was still at the campground looking for evidence of their missing daughter.
However, other experts believe the trooper’s critique is unjust.
“Even when the police do everything right they are wrong,” said Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD sergeant and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “Policing must be very easy since everyone on the internet can do it.”
Given the national media attention and outpouring of sympathy for the Sena family, state police expected traffic at the property, according to O’Neil. Other automobiles, which troopers did not suspect, had been arriving and going all night.
“Like many other instances where families are experiencing something traumatic, we anticipated there would be a flow of constant traffic in front of the house throughout the night to show support for the family,” O’Neil said. “Vehicles had been intermittently passing the home.”
Furthermore, Giacalone stated that cops would not generally be surveilling a victim’s house directly in front.
“If you stop every individual that shows up, and the suspect does show up and sees the cops there, you spook him,” the veteran investigator said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”
In this case, the culprit is said to have left his fingerprints on the ransom letter.
Ross had been fingerprinted following a DWI on September 28, 1999. According to court documents obtained by Fox News Digital, he eventually pleaded guilty and earned a conditional release after paying $325 in fines.
He was booked into the Saratoga County Jail about 3:40 a.m. Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the ransom note appeared, according to jail records.
According to Paul Mauro, a retired NYPD inspector who has been monitoring the case, the event at the Sena house may have been a missed chance.
“Nobody had probably conceived the idea of a ransom note drop off,” he told Fox News Digital. “Who would?”
Ransom kidnappings, he claims, are extremely rare.
“They got the guy fast, it appears to be the right guy, and the girl was alive,” he said. “On an abduction, you can’t do much better than that.”