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."