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Parents of 9-year-old who went missing on New York camping trip received ransom note before daughter was found, governor says


By Steve Almasy, Michelle Watson and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

(CNN) — Charlotte Sena, the 9-year-old girl who went missing while on a camping trip at a New York state park two days ago, has been found safe and a suspect has been detained, authorities said Monday evening.

Before she was found, Charlotte’s parents received a ransom note at their home, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told CNN Monday evening.

Hochul told CNN’s Anderson Cooper the note had fingerprints on it, which assisted authorities in tracking down a suspect and ultimately finding Charlotte. Hochul said the suspect’s fingerprints were already in a law enforcement database, but she did not elaborate on any prior case the suspect had been involved in.

“I have to caution that this is still very much a live investigation,” she said. “And as more information that can be confirmed is available, we’ll get it out there.”

Cell phone pings from people in the area where Charlotte was last spotted also helped the authorities find her, the governor said.

“They were checking all the different cell phones that have been in the vicinity of this park,” she said. Authorities also had information from those who came to the park as campers because they had to register.

“So, you could start circling around possible suspects based on the cell phone data, who is in the park and also then ultimately, the ransom note,” she said.

The combination of those factors led authorities to a suspect – and to Charlotte, she told CNN.

According to state police, once a suspect – who they believe was in the area around the time Charlotte went missing – was identified, they searched several homes associated with them. They found Charlotte on Monday at 6:32 p.m. ET, they said, and took the suspect into custody.

“It was extraordinary to see how they traced it down to an individual’s home,” Hochul added. “The home was surrounded by law enforcement and helicopters, and they were able to bring her to safety. And not long after, she was in the arms of her parents at a hospital.”

The governor confirmed Charlotte is in good health. New York State Police didn’t give specifics about where Charlotte was found, nor any additional details about the suspect.

Charlotte, who was camping in Moreau Lake State Park with her family, went on a bike ride with close friends around dinner time and never returned, officials said.

Charlotte had last been seen around 6:15 p.m. Saturday, riding her bike in one of the park’s loops. She had done a few loops with friends and wanted to do one more by herself, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a Sunday news conference. Her mother reported her missing around 6:45 p.m., after Charlotte’s bike was found in the loop without her, Lt. Colonel Richard Mazzone of the New York State Police said.

Mazzone said authorities feared, after not being able to find her close by, that Charlotte may have been abducted.

“Once they found her bike during that search, they realized she’s not on it, she hasn’t gone too far, she didn’t get lost. Something’s really wrong,” CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller said earlier.

Police on Monday canceled an Amber Alert that had been issued Sunday morning.

“Extremely grateful to @nyspolice @NYStateParks police, and all of our partners who worked tirelessly to locate Charlotte and ensure she could return home safely to her family,” Hochul said on social media after Charlotte was found.

The number of people searching for Charlotte had grown to 400 people by Monday morning, state police said earlier. Those helping were from 34 volunteer fire departments and private groups as well as federal, state and local law enforcement.

Before she was found, the search area had also expanded more than 46 linear miles, authorities said.

The very popular state park, roughly 45 miles north of Albany, is more than 6,200 acres and “lies amid hardwood forests, pine stands and rocky ridges,” according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Moreau Lake State Park said in a Facebook post it is closed until further notice.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Raja Razek, Lauren Mascarenhas, Polo Sandoval, Jared Formanek and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.

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