NBC10 Philadelphia - Lu Ann Cahn
The 5-year-old girl, who was taken from Bryant Elementary on Monday, finally returned home to her family. NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn reports with the latest on the search for her kidnapper(s).
The abducted 5-year-old girl who was found alive in Delaware County overnight was released from the hospital and returned home with her family. Now police are trying to figure out where the girl was kept during her abduction.
The girl was found early Tuesday morning wet, wearing only a T-shirt, on a playground on 69th Street by 27-year-old Nelson Mandela Myers, who was passing by, according to Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood.
"This morning around 4:40 a fellow on his way to work heard screams for help, he was walking, he goes over to a playground area and finds a little girl hiding underneath the jungle gym," Chitwood told NBC10's Tim Furlong.
Myers, who was headed to his sanitation job, immediately called police.
"I just wanted to do the same thing that someone would do for my child," Myers said.
Police tell NBC10 that she told them she was taken from school the day before and that she was cold and scared. During a press conference at 3 p.m., Myers said the girl was shivering, barefoot and had a scar under her lip. He also said that she claimed she was running and that someone was "chasing her." Despite this claim, police believe her abductor dropped her off at the playground.
The little girl was taken to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a general evaluation.
"Although there were no overt physical signs of injury to this child, she was also screened for sexual assault, given the condition under which she was found," said Philadelphia Police Captain and Commanding Officer of the Special Victims Unit John Darby.
Later during the day she was checked out at the Children's Hospital and then went to Children's Alliance for a forensic interview before returning home. A prayer service for the girl began at 2:30 p.m. at the family mosque. Relatives say the girl is resting now with her mother.
"She's traumatized," said Asim Abdur-Rashid, the girl's grandfather. "She's 5-years-old and she's been out all night. She's been away from her mother, sisters and brothers and she's traumatized."
"What has she said?" asked NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn.
"She just said she thought it was her aunt that was taking her," said Abdur-Rashid. "But we don't know who it was."
Her mom, Latifah Abdur-Rashid, told NBC10's Claudia Rivero that her daughter told her that she was blindfolded during her abduction.
The family tells NBC10 the girl had not been at the playground long before she was found. They also believe she had been at a house nearby.
"Later on someone at the house put her out the house and told her to run and call the police," said the girl's grandfather.
"But without her clothes on? " asked NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn. "What happened?"
"God only knows," he replied.
Now, police are looking for the person that took her from school Monday morning.
Police say the girl, who is a kindergartner at the Cullen Byrant Elementary School on 60th and Cedar Avenue, was snatched from the school around 8:50 a.m. by a woman claiming to be her mother.
Police describe the woman as a black female in her 20s, between 5'5" and 5'6", who appeared to be pregnant. She was wearing Muslim garb.
The Philadelphia School District released a statement saying that the school didn't realize the girl was missing until Abdur-Rashid came to pick her up.
The young girl's family told NBC10 that surveillance video shows the woman, who gave the name "Tiffany" to school officials, tell them that she needed to take her daughter to breakfast. Then "Tiffany" signed the girl out of school and walked away with her, according to the family.
"In the surveillance camera that the school has that I watched, she's dressed in traditional over-garment and Niqab," said Abdur-Rashid. "She has her face covered and only her eyes showing. She's wearing gloves. She's wearing all black. She has something white on her arm and she has a long black umbrella. The surveillance camera shows them walking through the hallway to get to the door. The next camera picks up and she's putting her umbrella up. Then they disappear."
“At this point we believe that the female who entered that school was a stranger and was absolutely unknown to this 5-year-old," Darby said.
Police have searched the park where the girl was found and canvassed the neighborhood looking for surveillance video that may show the girl walking with someone. While the girl has undergone some preliminary interviews, police say they need to move slowly. Sources tell NBC10 the child was kept in a home overnight and that other children were also inside the home. Now police are trying to figure out if the house where she was kept is in Philadelphia or Upper Darby.
Parents with children at Bryant Elementary are scared for their children and outraged at the lack of security at the school.
"You should not be able to just walk in and take somebody's kid out of school just like that," parent Shawnta Toole told NBC10.
The Philadelphia School District says there was a "failure to follow protocol" when the girl was taken. The District plans to investigate to find out who failed to follow the proper procedures and will then take disciplinary action.
The Fraternal Order of Police are offering a $5,000 reward for today only for the arrest of a suspect.
A $10,000 reward was offered on Monday night by Mayor Michael Nutter. He announced on Tuesday night that Myers will be awarded that money.
Anyone with information on the incident is urged to call police.