PHILADELPHIA – Police are still seeking suspects in the kidnapping of a 5-year-old girl from her Philadelphia elementary school last week, sparking a search that ended almost a day later when the girl was found at a suburban playground.
Mayor Michael Nutter on Thursday announced the reward is up to $30,000 for information leading to the girl’s abductors. He renewed his plea to the public to come forward with any information about the woman who abducted the child from school and the male accomplice who was in a house where the girl was taken.
“We need to find these people, we need to get them off the streets of our city before they do something else to any other child,” Nutter said.
A passer-by heading to work before dawn heard a child’s cries and found the girl huddled and shivering beneath a playground slide, clad only in a damp adult-sized T-shirt, nearly 20 hours after a stranger claiming to be her mother signed her out of her elementary school under the guise of taking her to breakfast.
The girl was taken Jan. 14 from the William C. Bryant School in West Philadelphia by a woman wearing a full-length, black Muslim garment, her face covered by a black veil. The suspect and victim walked a few blocks to a home where a light-skinned, brown-haired man in his mid-30s was waiting and the victim was blindfolded, forced to change out of her clothes and ordered to hide under a bed.
Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit said detectives have been working round-the-clock on the case but have not identified any potential suspects.
“This 5-year-old went through an unspeakable experience ... things may never return to normal for this child,” Darby said, declining to elaborate. “And we expect that nothing will return to normal in that neighborhood until someone out there steps forward and gives us information.”
District officials said school policy wasn’t followed in releasing the girl into the custody of her abductor, who apparently knew and targeted the child. The girl did not know the woman who took her but apparently went along willingly.
The girl’s mother had appeared on local media, tearfully pleading for her safe return, and explaining how she also wears the traditional chador and niqab.
The Associated Press is not naming the girl because it generally doesn’t identify those who are or might be victims of sexual assault. Darby declined to say if the young girl was assaulted, noting her name and photo had previously been made public as part of an Amber Alert.