Suspect in kidnapping of 9-year-old Charlotte Sena in upstate New York identified

A 47-year-old man allegedly hid the young victim in a cabinet, police said.

October 3, 2023, 5:38 PM

A 47-year-old man charged with kidnapping 9-year-old Charlotte Sena at an upstate New York park and allegedly holding her in the cabinet of a camper he lived in next to his mother's home has been identified by authorities.

Craig N. Ross Jr. is being held without bail Tuesday morning at the Saratoga County Correctional Facility on a charge of first-degree kidnapping, according to jail officials.

Charlotte was abducted from the Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County, New York, on Saturday evening, according to New York State Police. She disappeared around dinnertime on Saturday, while out riding her bike in the campground alone, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

The girl's family and other campers went looking for her. Charlotte's mother found her bike around 6:45 p.m. Saturday and called 911, police said.

In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, State Police Col. Richard Allen denied some media reports that Charlotte's bike was found in a ditch. He said the bike was recovered with its kickstand down.

An Amber Alert was issued for the missing child Saturday night and an intense search involving up to 400 local, state and federal law enforcement officers and firefighters was conducted at the sprawling park.

PHOTO: Craig N. Ross Jr. was booked into Saratoga County Jail on Oct. 3, 2023.
Craig N. Ross Jr. was booked into Saratoga County Jail on Oct. 3, 2023.
Saratoga County Jail

Hochul said at a Monday night news conference that the big break in the three-day search for the missing girl came early Monday morning, apparently from the suspect himself. At 4:20 a.m. a car pulled up to the Sena family's home and what turned out to be a ransom note was left in the mailbox, Hochul said.

"He literally drove up to the family's mailbox, assuming they were not home, 4:20 in the morning, opens the mailbox and inserts the ransom note, leaving a critical piece of evidence behind – his own fingerprint," Hochul said.

State police had been guarding the home while Charlotte's parents, David and Trisha Sena, were still at the campsite, Allen told ABC News on Tuesday. He said "people were stopping all night" at the house and the troopers assumed it was just a regular person dropping off items.

Using technology and detective work, investigators found a fingerprint on the ransom note and linked the note to a DWI arrest of Ross in 1999 in Saratoga, New York.

Hochal said a vehicle registered to Ross led investigators to a double-wide house in Ballston Spa, New York, where the suspect's mother lives. Investigators learned Ross was staying in a camper behind the residence.

Allen said members of the State Police Special Operations Response Team and an FBI Regional SWAT team were assembled near the Ballston Spa home.

Allen said about 20 SPOR and FBI SWAT team members made what he described as a "dynamic entry" to the camper behind the house and took Ross into custody.

"[Ross] did give our SWAT people some resistance in there," Allen said. "He did suffer some very minor injuries."

PHOTO: This photo provided by her family on Oct. 2, 2023, shows Charlotte Sena, 9, who vanished during a camping trip in upstate New York.
This photo provided by her family on Oct. 2, 2023, shows Charlotte Sena, 9, who vanished during a camping trip in upstate New York.
Family photo via AP

Allen told ABC News Tuesday that Charlotte was found in a small closet space in the camper's bedroom.

"She was very emotional when she saw officers," Allen said.

The fourth-grader was in "good health" when she was rescued, according to police.

Allen said Charlotte was not wearing the same clothes she had on when she disappeared. He said she was dressed in an adult-size sweatshirt when she was found.

Allen said investigators briefly spoke to Ross following his arrest, but the interview was cut short when he requested a lawyer.

He said police interviewed the suspect's mother, who was in her residence at the time of the raid. He said the mother seemed to be in shock.

Allen said Ross was not registered as a camper at Moreau Lake State Park, explaining that at this time of the year, visitors can come in and out of the park without registering. Allen said it remains unclear if the suspect had a vehicle inside the park or outside the park.

Authorities notified Charlotte's parents at 6:32 p.m. ET Monday that their daughter had been rescued.

Hochul said the home where Ross was arrested is about 2 miles from the Sena residence, but it is not known at this time whether he knew Charlotte or had her under surveillance for any length of time.

Allen said Tuesday that investigators have yet to find any connection between Ross and Charlotte's family.

"We are thrilled that she is home and we understand that the outcome is not what every family gets. A huge thank you to the FBI, the New York State Police, all of the agencies that were mobilized all of the families, friends, volunteers," the Sena family said in a statement.

Ross has been charged with kidnapping in the first degree, an A-1 felony.

Following his arrest, Ross was questioned at the New York State Police barracks in Latham, New York, and then arraigned at the Milton Town Court. Details of the suspect's interrogation were not released.

Ross was appointed a public defender. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Additional charges are anticipated, officials said.

Hochul said the investigation is still active and more search warrants were being executed.

"We want to make sure that [Ross] is not connected to any other cases. So, that's why it's still an ongoing investigation."

Allen told ABC News Tuesday that investigators have not linked Ross to any other crimes.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds and Stephanie Ramos contributed to this story.