ATLANTA (Reuters) - Authorities in Georgia on Friday hunted for the fourth straight day for suspects in the kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl, as new details emerged in a case that began with a home invasion in suburban Atlanta.
The girl, Ayvani Hope Perez, was abducted before dawn on Tuesday by two armed men who broke into her family’s home in Ellenwood, south of Atlanta. She was later found at the nearby house of a relative.
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, a local police chief gave the distinct impression that Perez had been rescued from the clutches of her abductors. Gregory Porter, the Clayton County police chief, credited “hard-core police work” for an end to the teenager’s 34-hour ordeal.
But a criminal complaint brought against Wildrego Jackson, one of two men arrested in the case on Wednesday, said Perez’s abductors had actually released her at an aunt’s home in Conyers, a nearby suburb.
Jackson has been charged in the complaint, filed on Thursday in federal court in Atlanta, with conspiring to kidnap Perez and hold her for a ransom or reward. A Mexican national has also been arrested in the case but is charged only with immigration violations.
Two other suspects, the armed men who actually broke into Perez’s home and carried her off, remained at large, said Lieutenant Mark Richards, a spokesman for the Clayton County Police Department.
FBI Special Agent Joseph Fonseca, in a sworn affidavit filed in support of the complaint against Jackson, said that Perez’s family members began receiving phone calls soon after she was kidnapped demanding money and drugs in exchange for her release.
The calls were from a cellphone with a blocked number that was later traced to Jackson, said Fonseca, who works with the FBI’s Violent Crimes Squad and is responsible for investigating crimes against children.
He said Jackson, who had been warned by at least one known associate that law enforcement officials were asking about him after the kidnapping, was arrested while appearing in court on an unrelated charge.
Richards, the Clayton police spokesman, declined to comment on whether any ransom was paid to the kidnappers.
Editing by Tom Brown