published Monday, March 24th, 2014

No "threat" to LaFayette, Ga., after 9-year-old girl found safe, police chief says

  • photo
    Police are chasing leads after a 9-year-old girl was found trapped inside a water meter box after a reported abduction.
    Photo by Beth Burger /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Town Creek Apartments
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LAFAYETTE, Ga. — Police determined there is “no credible threat” to the community after a 9-year-old girl told authorities she was reportedly kidnapped while taking out the garbage Sunday afternoon.

The girl was found 20 minutes after she went missing and was physically unharmed.

Friends of the girl's family heard her screaming and found her inside an industrial water meter box 250 feet from the garbage can area of the apartment complex, Lafayette Police Chief Bengie Clift said Monday.

She was unharmed and there were no signs that she was sexually assaulted. She was found trapped in a industrial water meter box near the property of Town Creek Apartments on Cooper Street, on the edge of downtown Lafayette.

The box the girl was in is made of brick and has a heavy metal lid. It is 3 feet deep into the ground, 3 feet wide, and 4 feet long, the chief said. The lid was too heavy for the girl to lift.

Law enforcement officials said they initially were looking for a suspect based on very few details they received second- and third-hand. The girl was interviewed at a Fort Oglethorpe children advocacy center Monday morning by someone who is trained to interview children. The girl had a physical exam Sunday afternoon.

"The problem with children is that they are easily influenced," explained Clift, describing the delicate interview process. "We did not want to contaminate the interview."

The interview went poorly, Clift said, who noted that he could not disclose what the girl told authorities.

Police are not looking for any suspects due to a lack of physical evidence and testimony, Clift said.

The girl's grandfather was angry with media who showed up at the apartment complex to learn details of the report. A manager for the apartment complex said that the girl's grandfather knew the man who reportedly placed her in the box.

Reports on social media of the incident were embellished. One report stated helicopters were searching for the girl after midnight even though she was found by neighbors, Clift said.

“I would rather it be blown out of proportion than not reported,” he said.

Neighbors at the apartment complex had mixed feelings about the story. One mother of a 11-year-old boy said she had second thoughts about letting him play outside.

“It's hard to know what really happened,” she said.

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