It was just another early morning for Nelson Mandela Myers as he walked from his Upper Darby home to 69th Street Station en route to his sanitation job.
But by daybreak, he would be hailed a hero for finding a missing girl and ensuring her safety until police arrived to reunite her with her mother.
It was 4:20 a.m. on Jan. 15, 2013. Myers was walking by the park at 69th and Ruskin Lane when he heard cries echo through the cold darkness.
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“Help! Help! Help!”
Myers walked toward the voice and saw a little girl. She was shivering and barefoot, cowering under a swing set wearing only an oversized black T-shirt.
He lifted her up over the fence that separated them and enveloped her in his Under Armour hoodie to keep her warm. Moments later, holding her in his left arm, he called 911.
Myers recounted that morning in his testimony on Thursday during day four of the trial of Christina Regusters. The 21-year-old woman is accused of abducting the child from her elementary school and viciously raping her with a sharp object. Prosecutors say the victim -- only 5-years-old at the time -- was later dumped in the park.
“I’m hurt. I’m scared to find my way home,” the cold girl could be heard saying on a 911 recording played in a Philadelphia courtroom.
Nelson testified that the girl told him that somebody stole her. He described her condition as “dirty, shivering and cold” when he found her.
When he asked how she got to the park, the child sad she ran from South Philly. He knew that was likely not possible but offered her comfort and continued to talk with her.
Prosecutors ran through the rest of the morning with other first responders and police.
Paramedic Jonathan Serbin, who also took the stand on Thursday, took her vitals and made sure she was stable and that her heart rate was OK.
Serbin said he was concerned because he didn't know how long she had been out in the cold. She was taken by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
There, she was cared for by doctors and nurses and interviewed for the first time by Kimberly Organ of the Philadelphia Police Department's Special Victims Unit.
Organ recalled from the witness stand that the child she met was quiet, still and timid, never raising her voice as she interviewed her.
The girl told Organ that she was with a teenage girl named China and that a man poked her with a toothpick in her private parts. Organ asked her if she ever saw the man. The child replied that she only saw a photo of him. The rest of the time, detectives believe she was blindfolded.
While she was held inside the home, the child said she was fed steak, broccoli, rice and apple juice.
Organ testified that the girl told her that China woke her up early in the morning and took her out of the house with plastic bags on her feet. They walked to the playground where she was told to scream for help.
Regusters denies the charges against her. Her attorney, Fred Harrison, expects his client to take the stand in her own defense next week.