WILMINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) – A 6-year-old Wilmington girl at the center of an AMBER Alert was found chained to a tree early Thursday morning, officials said.
The little girl was found alive and is in good condition, according to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Her father told CBS North Carolina he is incredibly grateful to authorities and to this community for all of their help.
Registered sex offender Douglas Edwards, 46, of Wilmington is in custody in connection with the girl’s disappearance.
Edwards is charged with first-degree kidnapping and indecent liberties with a child. He made his first court appearance Friday.
The judge said the kidnapping charge could carry a maximum sentence of 231 months, while the indecent liberties charge could carry a sentence of 59 months in prison.
The judge upheld a bond of $9 million at the request of District Attorney Ben David.
Edwards next court date is set for Oct. 6.
An AMBER Alert was issued late Wednesday for the girl after she was taken from her neighborhood around 4:50 p.m.. The alert said the girl’s potential abductor was riding a moped.
Authorities were searching for the girl along River Road when a K-9 officer helped locate her.
She was found chained to a tree in a wooded area just to miles from her home.
A witness gave law enforcement a battery-operated saw to cut the girl free. She was transported to the hospital for evaluation.
“We beat the odds today, it’s safe to say,” Sheriff Edward McMahon said during a news conference. “We worked tirelessly, relentlessly through the night and I am glad to say, thank the Lord we found her this morning alive and well.”
McMahon said Edwards was under surveillance all Wednesday night before officials took him into custody. McMahon said the community stepped forward to help with leads.
“I have a granddaughter at that age,” McMahon said, getting emotional at the news conference. “It’s personal when this is in our community and this stuff doesn’t normally happen, so this is very personal and it should be to everybody.”
Neighbors and friends were at the girl’s home throughout Thursday to support the family.
“It was the worst day for us yesterday because not even, we don’t know what’s going on with her. If she’s doing OK,” said family friend Leslie Hernandez. “Right now she’s not talking about it. She’s so happy. Like she’s so happy to see the family and the friends.”
Deputies had set up checkpoints along Antoinette Drive Thursday evening to ask drivers for information about the abduction.
Edwards was convicted of first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a minor in 1996.
The victim related to those convictions was 6 years old at the time of the offenses, according to the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. Edwards was 24 when the offenses occurred in 1994.
He spent 16 years in prison and released in May 2012.
The girl is expected to be released from the hospital Friday.