A kidnapped 12-year-old girl who fled captivity by chewing through her restraints at a mobile home in Alabama on Monday morning led authorities back to the residence, where police discovered two decomposing bodies.
Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett confirmed at a press conference Tuesday that court documents revealed the girl had been assaulted, drugged with alcohol, and tied to a bed post for nearly a week before escaping.
“It’s horrendous to have a crime scene of this nature and also a 12-year-old juvenile to deal with this horrendous situation,” Abbett said.
Sheriff Abbett said just before 8:30 a.m., police responded to a call from a driver who found the girl walking alone alongside a road in Dadeville, Alabama.
From there, the girl helped authorities launch a 24-hour investigation that led to the arrest of 37-year-old José Paulino Pascual-Reyes in Auburn, Alabama — about 25 miles from the mobile home where he resided since February, police estimated.
Authorities charged Pascual-Reyes with first-degree kidnapping, three counts of capital murder, and two counts of abuse of a corpse. He’s currently being held in Tallapoosa County Jail pending a bond hearing.
It’s unclear when Pascual-Reyes kidnapped the girl and if he had any relationship or prior contact with her.
“It’s a fluid investigation,” Abbett said. “Things are changing, and I don’t want to jeopardize the identification of our juvenile.”
Authorities declined to offer information regarding the two bodies found in the Dadeville mobile home, but said the remains were sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
Jacqueline Burgess, executive director of the Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center, told WSFA that the girl showed bravery and courage in ways she had never seen before.
Burgess said the girl remains safe and protected while the investigation continues.
“Our role in that is to interview the child in a way that’s not scary,” Burgess said. “That is developmentally appropriate so that they’re not questioned by 50 different people on what is probably the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to them.”
“We don’t ever want their life to be defined by these events,” she added. “We want to teach them how to be resilient and how to heal from this trauma.”
Authorities have also hailed the girl as a hero for helping them in the investigation and arrest of Pascual-Reyes.
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, over 365,000 reported missing persons, including youth, were filed into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Of those, nearly 90,000 records remained active by the end of 2020. About one-third of those cases were under 18 years old.
Sheriff Abbett also expressed appreciation for the driver who called for help.
“We always say ‘see something, say something,’” he said. “And it’s one of those things that you really don’t know what you’re actually doing, but you’re helping that young child when you’re stopping there and volunteering your services to do that.”
“And so we’re very appreciative to the people that actually came forward and identified and notified us,” he added.