A 48-year-old man arrested Monday night at his Spring Lake Park home could face charges as early as Tuesday in the abduction of a 7-year-old St. Paul girl whose disappearance triggered an Amber Alert Sunday night, police said.
The man was arrested about 6:30 p.m. as he hid under a vehicle in his garage in the 500 block of 78th Street NE., St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said at a news conference Monday night.
The man is being held in the Anoka County jail on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct.
Smith said an investigation by several law enforcement agencies, as well as information provided by the girl, led to the suspect's arrest. Investigators worked around the clock, Smith said, with little or no sleep.
"The 7-year-old victim is just a resilient little girl; she gave us a lot of information," Smith said, calling her "very brave and very smart."
Added St. Paul police Senior Cmdr. Bill Martinez, who coordinated the investigation: "She's the reason she's alive."
Just after 6:30 p.m. Sunday, police got a call that the girl had disappeared after being lured away from the Giant Wash Laundry Mat at 1675 Rice St. by a man about 50 years old with gray shoulder-length hair shaved at the ears like a mullet. An Amber Alert was issued, and about 7:50 p.m. a citizen found the girl near the intersection of Highways 10 and 65 in Spring Lake Park.
The suspect had approached the girl, who was with her family in the laundry, told her she looked pretty and grabbed her, witnesses said. Her mom pulled her away from him. The suspect then left. He returned about 20 minutes later, luring the girl away with the promise of visiting his puppy, police said.
They were seen walking south on Rice Street about 6:40 p.m. The girl's sister told their parents of the abduction.
She was examined by doctors and reunited with her family before 10 p.m. Sunday.
"It's still very early in the investigation, but a dangerous individual is off the streets and a family is reunited," Smith said. More information will be available Tuesday and in the coming days, he said.
Smith and Martinez said St. Paul police were assisted by Anoka County authorities, Spring Lake Park police and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, as well as the Karen community and the victim's family.
"This was truly a team effort," Smith said, adding that investigators are checking with other agencies to see if they have had any similar incidents in their communities and if the suspect has been in any of those communities.
Pat Pheifer 612-673-7252