An 11-year-old girl was snatched from just outside her Massachusetts home this week in every parents’ worst nightmare, but she was rescued hours later, thanks in part to some keen-eyed bystanders who took action amid an Amber Alert.
Arrested on the Massachusetts Turnpike with the girl in his car, according to police, the 24-year-old accused in the kidnapping appeared in court the following day — where troubling details emerged about his past.
Here’s what we know about the Springfield kidnapping:
The Girl's Abduction
The child hopped off a school bus Wednesday afternoon and was walking on Amherst Street toward her home when a stranger approached her and forced her into his vehicle about 1:26 p.m., according to police.
Neighbors heard the young girl scream for help and called 911. Surveillance footage captured a dark blue Honda Civic fleeing the scene. Police initially believed an accomplice was inside, but later said that was not the case.
“My wife saw most of it,” neighbor Julius Kenney told NBC10 Boston. “When she started screaming and hollering, that’s when I got involved. I was in the front room and she was screaming. I thought somebody was breaking in.”
State police released images of the girl and the car they suspected she'd been shoved inside, calling it a "possible abduction" and asked anyone who saw her or the vehicle to call 911.
Soon, an Amber Alert was issued, activating an emergency alert system that got the word out about the abduction statewide.
The girl was missing for more than six hours, before the public’s intervention helped police track down the Honda wanted in the search.
The Public's Help and the Suspect's Arrest
Police and the girl's family credit the public's involvement in the kidnapping for helping end the search for the Honda with her safe recovery.
"The biggest factor, I think, in this was the assistance of the public. The tips coming in were amazing," Springfield police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said afterward. "People were out looking for this car. It was amazing. Civilians spotted this car and helped us out immensely."
The girl's family, thankful for all the help they received amid the crash, singled out one couple for special praise, "for their vigilance and courage for putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure she wasn’t out of their sight."
They had noticed the Honda and its distinctive rims and chased after it — following him through a red light — as they called police, posting part of the chase to social media (warning: graphic language).
In the video, the pair can be seen chasing after the car while they appear to be on the phone with the police. Eventually, though, the car speeds off and loses the couple.
"He tried to evade me,” said Benny Correa, who was driving with his wife and three children when they spotted the car. “I chased him behind a building and I reversed into oncoming traffic and I blocked him. He jumped over a curb and we just took off.”
But it wouldn't be long before they were rescued.
More on the abduction of the 11-year-old girl
Rescue on the Mass. Turnpike
With the Amber Alert in effect, authorities received tips from multiple drivers on the Massachusetts Turnpike that the blue Honda was stopped in a work zone, police said.
Sometime after 7:15 p.m., officers spotted the car near the Auburn and Sturbridge exits and arrested the driver at gunpoint.
The girl was found safe in the backseat of the car and was taken to a hospital to be evaluated before she was returned to her family.
"I can't imagine what they were going through," Clapprood said of the girl's parents shortly after she was found safely.
Miguel Rodriguez, a 24-year-old from Springfield, was arrested, and officers discovered a knife in the pocket of a car door, state police said. Prosecutors later alleged he used it to threaten the girl.
The Suspected Kidnapper's Past
In Springfield District Court a day after his arrest, Rodriguez pleaded not guilty on charges of kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon and witness intimidation and was held without bail. He is due for a dangerousness hearing on Jan. 22
Court documents revealed that some family members of Rodriguez had filed restraining orders against him.
One relative alleged the suspect forced her to engage in a sex act under threat and that he had touched her inappropriately years before.
In a separate document, Rodriguez’s mother said his mental problem of being aggressive made it “impossible” to live with him. The statement said his mother and brother feared the suspect.
Family members of the suspect told Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra that Rodriguez has schizophrenia and sometimes does not take his medication.