Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter had announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the abductors of a 5-year-old girl. Authorities say the young child was kidnapped Jan. 14 from her elementary school by a woman posing as her mother. A passer-by found the girl early the next morning shivering on a playground about a mile away. AP Photo/Matt Rourke
PHILADELPHIA — A 19-year-old daycare worker was charged in the abduction of a 5-year-old girl from her Philadelphia elementary school, an arrest aided by the little girl’s report to police that there was a talking bird in the home where she was taken, authorities said.
Special Victims Unit Capt. John Darby says Christina Regusters was charged Thursday night with kidnapping, conspiracy, aggravated assault, rape, and other offenses. She was one of four people questioned Thursday who live in a home several blocks from Bryant Elementary School in west Philadelphia. The other three were released.
Darby said Regusters worked at an after-school care program attended by the victim, who was taken out of her classroom Jan. 14 by a woman posing as her mother. The child was found early the next morning at a playground about a mile away, wearing only a T-shirt. Police have taken the girl to places around the neighborhood as they searched for clues.
“The investigation is very much active and ongoing,” Darby said at a news conference Thursday.
Attorney Tom Kline, who represents the girl and her mother, said the child told police there was some sort of talking bird at the place where she was taken after she was abducted, information that helped lead police to the home.
“This brave, innocent precious little girl was instrumental in leading police literally to the door of the crime,” Kline said in an interview Friday. “She told them that there was a bird in the house. The bird became one of the many focal points of the investigation.”
A telephone listing for Regusters could not be located. An attorney who was representing her could not immediately said that Regusters had “no involvement” in the crime.
The investigation has been unfolding since a woman wearing a black Muslim garment, her face covered by a veil, posed as the girl’s mother and took her out of class, officials said. The victim’s mother wears the traditional chador and niqab.
Investigators believe the suspect and victim walked a few blocks to a home where a man was waiting. The child was blindfolded, told to remove her clothes and put on a black, adult-sized T-shirt, and then ordered to hide under a bed, authorities said. She was apparently dumped about 18 hours later at a park about a mile from her school, just outside the city, and was found by a passer-by, shivering under playground equipment.
When she was found, the girl told her rescuer, “I’ve been stolen.”
Kline said the girl suffered “terrible, horrible injuries” and that the family was “grateful” for the arrest, but knows it isn’t the end of the line.
“There is still more work to be done,” he said adding that there were clearly additional people involved. “We are watching anxiously the next developments because this is not the end of the line.”