By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
LATHAM — Charlotte Sena, 9, who went missing while camping with her family at Moreau Lake State Park on Saturday, was allegedly being held for ransom, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced at a press conference late Monday.
Hochul appeared with state and local law enforcement at state police Troop G headquarters in Latham to reveal how Charlotte’s rescue came about.
“It’s been a long two days, but our prayers have been answered,” Hochul said. “We are overcome with relief and gratitude for this gift to all of us.”
The case broke when a ransom note was left in the mailbox at the family’s home at 4:20 a.m. Monday, allegedly delivered by the suspect himself, Hochul said.
Two fingerprints were found at the scene. The first print could not be identified, but the second led to the identification of Craig Nelson Ross Jr., 47, of Ballston Spa.
“The hit came at 2:30 in the afternoon,” Hochul said of the fingerprint search. “There had been a DWI (driving while intoxicated arrest) in 1999 in the city of Saratoga and the fingerprint was found that matched what was found on the ransom note.”
Hochul would not specify what was written in the ransom note.
Ross was traced to a property in Ballston Spa. His mother lives in a double-wide home on the property and Ross lives in a camper behind the home.
Law enforcement, including specially trained SWAT teams, landed on the property in two helicopters and performed a “dynamic entry” into the camper — a tactical maneuver that relies on a rapid entry in which speed is critical, designed to surprise and overwhelm the suspect.
“After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody and immediately the little girl was found in a cabinet, covered,” Hochul said. “She was rescued. And she knew she was being rescued. She knew that she was in safe hands.”
Ross offered some resistance during the arrest and suffered “very minor injuries,” according to police.
Charlotte’s parents, David and Trish Sena, were notified of their daughter’s rescue at 6:32 p.m. Monday.
Charlotte was taken to a local hospital for observation and treatment. Hochul declined to offer specifics into her condition but said she appeared to be physically unharmed.
Ross was still being questioned late Monday and no charges had yet been filed, “but they are fully expected,” Hochul said.
It is not yet known whether the family knows the suspect or whether Charlotte was specifically targeted.
Ross is not a registered sex offender, police said. His vehicle is registered to a home two miles from where Charlotte Sena lives.
The rescue was a great relief, Hochul said.
“Often these stories don’t end up like this,” the governor said. “Every second is key. There is a lot of pressure and split decisions are made because not only is a life hanging in the balance, but a little innocent child’s life is hanging in the balance.”