ABOVE PHOTO: Nelson Mandela Myers, center, holds his child, Gary, right, as his wife, Janie, left, pauses to talk with reporters at Upper Darby Police Dept. in Upper Darby, Pa., on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. Nelson Mandela Myers found a 5-year-old girl who went missing after she was abducted from her school on Monday. She was found early this morning as Myers was going to work.
(AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, David Maialetti)
By Kathy Matheson
A 5-year-old girl was blindfolded, forced to change out of her clothes and made to hide under a bed after being abducted from her class at a public school, police said Wednesday.
Capt. John Darby described the victim’s ordeal while releasing information about a new, second suspect in the kidnapping, an incident that continues to horrify and mystify the city even after the child was found.
Police called on the public to help identify the woman who took the girl from Bryant Elementary in west Philadelphia, as well as a male accomplice. Authorities have been canvassing the area surrounding the school.
“This was an egregious crime, obviously,” Darby said. “The community should be outraged. We’re asking them to channel that towards a focus on these two people we’ve described.”
Events began unfolding Monday morning when a woman — wearing a full-length, black Muslim garment, her face covered by a black veil — posed as the girl’s mother and took her out of class. The victim’s mother wears the traditional chador and niqab.
From school, the suspect and victim walked a few blocks to a home where a light-skinned, brown-haired man in his mid-30s was waiting, Darby said.
The child was blindfolded, told to remove her clothes and put on a black, adult-sized T-shirt, and then ordered to hide under a bed. She was fed once while blindfolded, Darby said.
The eye covering was removed when the girl was apparently dumped about 18 hours later at a park about a mile from her school. She was found by a passer-by early Tuesday morning, shivering under playground equipment in the black T-shirt.
Police described the main kidnapping suspect as a black woman with light eyes in her late 20s, possibly pregnant, and who might go by the name Rashida.
Authorities believe the victim was targeted but have not disclosed a motive. Darby said the girl questioned her abductor as they left school, yet essentially left willingly because “5-year-olds listen to adults.”
District officials have said school personnel did not follow proper identification procedures before releasing the child.
Darby declined to say if the young girl was sexually assaulted, noting her name and photo had previously been made public as part of an Amber Alert. The police department, and The Associated Press, generally do not name people who are, or might be, victims of sexual assault.
But based solely on the details that have been made public, Darby said, “this little girl suffered conditions that no child should endure.”
The child’s family has been cooperating, he noted. Two rewards of $5,000 each are being offered by local crime-fighting groups.