5-year-old girl interviewed, search for abductor continues (PHOTOS)

January 16, 2013 4:52:02 AM PST
The 5-year-old girl who was kidnapped from a West Philadelphia school returned home Tuesday as the search for her abductor continues.

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WATCH: Surveillance video from the school

The girl went missing Monday morning from her school, Bryant Elementary, located at 6001 Cedar Avenue in West Philadelphia. Her mother says she dropped off her daughter at 8:45 a.m.

Just minutes later, police said, a woman dressed in Muslim garb, which only shows her eyes, signed in with the name "Tiffany."

The girl does have relatives who are Muslim and her uncle does have a girlfriend named Tiffany who was on the list of those allowed to pick her up from school. But it wasn't learned until later that it was not her.

"We believe that female that entered that school was a stranger, absolutely unknown to this 5-year-old," Philadelphia Police Captain John Darby said.

Police said that woman was "screened to some degree" and told to go to the school's office. However, police said, she went to the girl's classroom. That woman allegedly told the substitute teacher on duty that day she was her mother and was taking the girl to breakfast.

The woman then got confrontational when the substitute teacher challenged her saying, "I signed what I was supposed to sign, I've got other appointments and I do not need to put up with your nonsense."

That woman, who remains at large, has been described as a black female in her 20s, standing about 5'5" to 5'6" tall. Police say she may have been pregnant.

Surveillance footage shows the girl walking from her classroom with the unknown woman at the school around 8:50 a.m.

Police said the girl did not appear to be alarmed to be going with the woman.

"I don't think that my child knew her. I think that my child thought that she was a familiar person because she was Muslim," her mother said Monday.

Sources said she was taken from her school to a home at an unknown location where she was blindfolded.

Investigators said that this did not appear to be a random act, but rather the girl was targeted, noting that the woman knew where to go and asked for the girl by name.

Authorities say when someone from the girl's daycare arrived to pick her up at 3:00 p.m., they finally realized something was wrong. An Amber Alert was then issued for the girl on Monday evening.

She was found by a passerby named Nelson Mandela Myers at 4:40 a.m. Tuesday at a playground in Upper Darby, Delaware County, crying, wet, and wearing only a t-shirt.

Upper Darby police say Myers was on his way to work when he heard the girl's cries Tuesday morning and found her under a playground sliding board near 69th Street and Marshall Road, cold and upset.

Police say the girl told Myers that she had been "stolen."

"She said she was cold and that somebody was chasing her and she ran," said Myers.

On Tuesday night, Mayor Michael Nutter announced Myers would receive the $10,000 reward that was being offered for information leading to the girl's return.

"Community policing is about all of us doing the right thing when we see something happening," Mayor Nutter said in a statement. "I commend this good Samaritan, Mr. Myers, for his sharp eye, quick thinking and big heart."

Once found, the girl was taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where she was evaluated, reunited with her mother, and released.

The child has had some preliminary interviews after being released from the hospital.

Police, covering all bases in this investigation, conducted a lie detector test on the girl's father. He passed.

After being released from the hospital, the girl was carried home in her mother's arms and surrounded by detectives.

"[I'm] very relieved," the mother said as she walked inside the home with her daughter.

The girl's grandfather spoke to Action News outside the home to shed more details on what the 5-year-old may have gone through.

"She knows she was in a house, someone released her in the park and told her to run and call police," the grandfather said said.

The grandfather says the family is looking into who the female suspect is and how she could do something like this.

"The woman took her somewhere and we believe this woman may be a part of some kind of deranged predatory thing that may be going on in the community," the grandfather said.

While investigators look for the people responsible, the little girl's family says they are focusing on her recovery.

"We just want to sit home and pray and embrace her like she never left," the girl's uncle said.

The girl was discovered 1.5 miles away from her school.

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District admits that the Bryant Elementary did not follow proper protocol for school visitors. The substitute teacher involved has been suspended and the school district said an investigation has begun into exactly how this happened. The girl's family is searching for answers from the school.

"There's no excuse. 8:00 a.m., crowded, no excuse that a child disappeared five minutes after she got there," the girl's uncle said.

In a different incident at the same school, three 10 and 11-year-old boys were charged in November 2011 after reportedly sexually assaulting another boy in the restroom.

The Fraternal Order of Police is offering a $5,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest.


VIDEO: Police press conference on the girl's abduction