A man sought in the kidnapping of 4-year-old Missouri girl Alisa Maier shot himself today during a confrontation with police who tracked down a dark car to a home in Hawk Point, Mo., police said.
The home is located about halfway between where the child was snatched from her front yard Monday night and the St. Louis suburb where she was found late Tuesday wandering around a car wash.
St. Louis County Police declined to identify the man or describe his condition other than to say he was initially being transported from the scene for medical attention shortly after the 4:30 p.m. shooting. Local media reports identified the man as Paul Sterling Smith.
"This person is definitely someone we wanted to talk to," St. Louis County Police spokesman Rick Eckhard said at a news conference Wednesday night. Officials declined to say whether the man was the suspected kidnapper or whether there were others involved in the crime.
Police spotted a car that matched the description of the crime vehicle outside the home and attempted to contact the man inside the residence. They said he pulled out a gun and shot himself.
Alisa Maier, who disappeared for 26 agonizing hours, was found unharmed at a car wash more than 80 miles from her Louisiana, Mo., home.
"She has been released to her family," St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch told reporters today. "From best I could tell, she's in good shape."
Alisa turned up at a car wash in a St. Louis suburb after a passerby called police to report what appeared to be a little boy wandering outside just before 10 p.m. Tuesday.
It was Alisa, her hair cut short.
"Right now, my heart's racing ... that we found her," her aunt, Carrie Doyle, told "Good Morning America."
"This community really came together, really came together, and I'm so grateful for that," she said.
Witnesses told police they saw what they thought was a little boy wandering around the car wash alone in the middle of the night.
"Clearly the girl's hair had been cut," Fitch said.
Alisa was taken to a nearby hospital and later to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, where was examined for three hours, a hospital spokeswoman said. Alisa and her parents left the hospital about 7:30 a.m. today.
"It was a very moving scene," hospital spokeswoman Ashley Wiehle told ABCNews.com. "I was told that the girl was sitting in her mother's lap in the emergency room and her mother had her arms wrapped around Alisa like she was never going to let her go again."
Police and the FBI, meanwhile, turned their attention to finding the abductor. Soon after Alisa was snatched, her 6-year-old brother told police a young white man in a dark-colored car had ordered Alisa to get in.
Witnesses at the Fenton car wash where Alisa was found provided a similar discription. Police were looking for a dark-colored, four-door car, possibly a Ford Escort, seen leaving the area of the car wash. Police said a dark-skinned white man in his 30s was behind the wheel.
The car either had a hole in the muffler or no muffler at all, and it was missing hubcaps on the driver's side.
"We don't know at this point if it is the same guy," Fitch said earlier today. "We have dozens and dozens of leads that we're following and some of them are very good."
FBI Joins Hunt for Alisa Maier's Abductor
FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu said the responding officer reported that Maier was unharmed, but seemed tired. As the hours since her disappearance passed, investigators had feared the worst.
"The chances are not as good as time goes on when a child is abducted," Wu told ABCNews.com. "You always hope for the best."
After 26 hours, Alisa's parents rushed to the scene two hours south of the town of Louisiana, Mo., where the girl was abducted. There was a tearful reunion with her at a police station before Alisa was taken to the hospital.
She has been able to provide more information about her abductor, a white man in his 30s. But authorities were still unsure where she was or what happened to her since she was kidnapped from her front yard.
"The family wanted to convey how grateful they were for the community response," Wiehle said. "This was a very happy ending."
The most noticeable thing about the abductor's car was its noisy muffler.
"The car had such a loud muffler that it caught attention of people and that's how they noticed the child," Wu said.
Monday's kidnapping triggered a massive search and an Amber Alert for the car that sped off with the little girl as her mother made a desperate, but futile attempt to catch up.
Alisa was grabbed while playing with her older brother outside the family home on South Carolina Street.
Alisa's mother "got in her van and took off up the road in the direction that her son pointed but the car got away," neighbor Anita Mcklevis told ABCNews.com.
Her brother told police that a black four-door car, probably a convertible with tinted windows, pulled up to the house and a thin man made off with the Alisa.
Police met with the FBI to discuss the case as volunteers went door-to-door with fliers, asking for help from anyone who may have seen Alisa.
Police were examining surveillance video from local businesses in hopes of finding some clues in the case.
Alisa Maier Found Alive, Neighbors Frightened by Abduction
The town is near a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River into Illinois and law enforcement officers from both states were involved in the search.
Mcklevis said her son was standing outside a friend's house near the place of the abduction and saw a dark car circling the neighborhood for hours before Alisa went missing.
"He didn't pay too much attention and went inside the house," she said.
"When my son came back out, he said Alisa's brother was saying that a young man who looked to be in his early 20s had grabbed his sister and taken her away," Mcklevis said.
Mcklevis described the town of Louisiana, located 75 miles north of St. Louis, as a quiet, safe place.
"We were up all night just thinking about this," she said. "This is kind of town where you don't have lock your doors. You know everybody. The kids play outside all the time."
Alisa's brother described the alleged abductor as a thin white male, possibly in his late teens or 20s with dark, curly hair. He was driving a black or dark-colored four-door sedan with possible front end damage, according to authorities.
"These kinds of things don't usually happen around here," Mcklevis said.
Anyone with information can call the Louisiana Police Department at (314) 754-4021 or the Pike County Sheriff's Department at (573) 324 3202.