Police swoop to save kidnap girl, 9

Found 1 1/2 hours after abduction
Officers credit fast reaction time
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CAMILLE ROY, GAIL SWAINSON AND FRANK CALLEJA
STAFF REPORTERS
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A quick decision to initiate a high-level abduction investigation likely
saved a missing 9-year-old girl’s life, York Region police say.

“I think it was probably the key element in finding her alive,” Detective
Les Young, acting inspector for investigative services, said yesterday.

When they got the call after midnight about a girl who had disappeared
during a Saturday night birthday party in Richmond Hill, the police
launched parallel investigations — one for a missing person, another for
an abducted child. Some officers searched the area around the party while
others combed computer databases and worked the phones to learn more
about the suspected abductor.

“We were lucky, we had a suspect to focus on right away,” Young said.

Just 90 minutes later, police found the girl cowering in a ramshackle
garage adjacent to the Richmond Hill home of the accused. The girl had
been sexually assaulted, choked into unconsciousness and viciously
beaten, police said.

Ray Sourlis, who lives across the street from where the girl was found,
watched the drama unfold early Sunday as scores of police officers,
cruisers and a helicopter with spotlights swooped on to the quiet street.

First he saw the officers with a suspect in handcuffs, then seconds later
an officer ran out of the backyard cradling the girl who was wrapped in a
blanket.

“The little girl was screaming, scared to death,” Sourlis said.

The girl’s grandmother credits her granddaughter for fighting back
against her assailant and being brave enough to call out to police as
they searched the area where she was being held. “My granddaughter was a
fighter. Thank God for that,” the distraught woman said at the Newmarket
courthouse yesterday.

The horrifying series of events began with the woman and her
granddaughter sitting by a campfire at a friend’s birthday party on
Saturday night. Shortly after midnight, the 9-year-old told her
grandmother she was going to the bathroom.

While the girl was gone, the grandmother said she saw one of the guests
driving out of the yard with the vehicle’s lights off.

Moments later, one of her friends asked where the young girl was. When
they realized the girl wasn’t in the bathroom at about 12:15 a.m., they
frantically searched outside. Then someone called police.

“Something told me she was gone with him,” the grandmother said.

Young, who also trains homicide investigators, said York officers are
taught to expect the worst in missing children cases.

When they were alerted about this girl’s disappearance, Young said, they
launched the two separate investigations, involving upwards of 50
officers and a helicopter. While one group of police officers combed the
Teston Rd. and Jane St. neighbourhood, others worked the phones and
searched computer databases in an effort to find out more about the
missing guest.

Young said police looked at every aspect of the man’s life: what kind of
vehicle he drove, where he hung out, where he worked and — most
importantly — where he lived.

Police were tipped off that the partygoer had moved to Richmond Hill just
two weeks earlier after splitting up with his wife and leaving their
Mississauga home.

At 1:45 a.m., officers swooped down on a home on Lennox Ave., near Yonge
St. and Major Mackenzie Dr. in Richmond Hill.

They had spotted the man’s car in the driveway, but when a tenant said
the man was not home, they started a neighbourhood search, calling in the
helicopter.

Using an infrared camera, which detects unusual heat patterns, they
discovered a man hiding in a neighbour’s backyard at about 2 a.m.

Sourlis, the neighbour, said: “I was outside when I saw officers rush
into the backyard of a house across the street and into the bushes and
hedges, and in minutes come out again with a man whose hands were
handcuffed behind his back.

“I thought it was some kind of a domestic dispute, an argument between a
man and a woman,” the 27-year-old electrician said.

“I saw police officers rush into the back yard and break into the shed
that I see everyday across the street when I walk out of my house,”
Sourlis said.

Within seconds, with the helicopter hovering over the garage and search
lights probing the backyard of the house next door, officers emerged with
the little girl wrapped in a blanket, Sourlis said.

“At first she was afraid to come out, she didn’t know if it was him
coming back,” Young added.

“But when she heard the helicopter, she knew there was help around.”

The youngster, who is still recovering in hospital, has already spoken
several times with officers from the York sexual assault squad, Young
said.

“She’s a pretty tough little kid, she’s dealing with it pretty well,”
Young said. “She’s been able to help us a lot.”

The youngster was so upset about the loss of some new clothes, including
a pair of jeans, that she had worn to the birthday party, that officers
took up a collection and bought her a new outfit, Young added.

The grandmother, who said the girl is doing okay under the circumstances,
said she is proud of how her granddaughter “fought back really hard.”

After Holly Jones was killed last year, police came to the girl’s school
to teach the kids self-protection and how to react in an emergency
situation, the woman said.

The girl asked for a black Labrador retriever when her grandmother
visited her in the hospital.

“She’s usually happy go-lucky. She’s very smart.”

Because the accused is a long-haul truck driver with regular routes
across the United States and Canada, York police are checking with
authorities across North America about unsolved child assaults, Young
said.

Mikell Carol Case, 45, made a court appearance yesterday to face charges
of sexual assault, kidnapping, assault causing bodily harm, forcible
confinement, threatening death, assaulting police and overcoming
resistance for the purpose of committing an indictable offence.

He appeared in court by video link-up wearing an orange top. He was
unshaven and had bruises over his eye and on his forehead.

The hearing was put off until Friday while Case arranges to get a lawyer.

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