A ransom note caught Charlotte Sena’s alleged kidnapper. Who is Craig Ross Jr?

Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office released mug shot of Craig Nelson Ross Jr (Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office)
Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office released mug shot of Craig Nelson Ross Jr (Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office)

The suspect accused of abducting nine-year-old Charlotte Sena from a New York campsite has now been charged with kidnapping.

Craig Nelson Ross Jr, 47, was arrested on Monday evening and charged with first-degree kidnapping in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a chilling case that was described as “every parent’s worst nightmare”.

The terrifying ordeal unfolded on Saturday evening when Charlotte was riding her bike in Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County.

When she failed to return – and her bike was found abandoned – her parents raised the alarm.

Almost 48 hours on from her abduction, the little girl was found alive in Mr Ross Jr’s campervan, officials said – and the 47-year-old was arrested on charges.

It remains unclear if he has any connection to the nine-year-old or her family.

Here’s what we know so far about the suspect:

The suspect

Craig Nelson Ross Jr, 47, was named as the suspect in the disappearance of nine-year-old Charlotte Sena.

He was arrested on Monday at his campervan around the back of his mother’s house.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, he was charged with first-degree kidnapping and appeared for his arraignment in Milton Town Court.

He was then booked into Saratoga County jail at around 3.40am where he is currently being held without bail.

Police are attempting to determine if the Sena family was known to the suspect.

At a press conference on Monday evening, New York Governor Kathy Hochul revealed the address connected to the suspect’s vehicle was two miles from Charlotte’s home in Greenfield, New York.

Police will spend Tuesday interviewing Mr Ross Jr to determine if he had the nine-year-old under surveillance, Governor Hochul said.

The governor also said the suspect’s home is being searched by police to make sure he is not connected to any other cases.

Mr Ross Jr was identified by authorities after he drove to the home of Charlotte’s parents and left a ransom note on Monday morning, Governor Hochul said.

“He literally drove up to the family’s mailbox assuming they were not home,” Ms Hochul said, adding that Charlotte’s parents were still at the campground at Moreau Lake State Park at the time, and officers who were monitoring the family home had been sent to another call in the area.

Police later tested the note for fingerprints and searched law enforcement databases for a match.

A match later came back as belonging to the 47-year-old suspect.

The abduction

Charlotte had been snatched while out on a solo bike ride in Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County, upstate New York, on Saturday evening.

The family later found her bike abandoned in the area – but no sign of little Charlotte.

Charlotte Sena, 9 (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)
Charlotte Sena, 9 (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

At around 6.45pm, the fourth-grader’s distraught mother called 911 to report her daughter missing.

Police issued an Amber Alert for the girl’s disappearance the next day.

The search for Charlotte included New York Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers, New York State Police, and the FBI, involving an estimated 400 search and rescue personnel. Assistance also came from 34 volunteer fire departments.

All told, the search area spanned over 46 linear miles within the 6,200-acre park.

The governor pleaded with the public for help locating the missing child.

“We are leaving no stone, no branch, no table, no cabin unturned, untouched, unexamined in our search to find Charlotte,” Governor Hochul said at a press conference on Sunday. “If you know anything, if you’ve seen anything, if you hear anything, please contact 911 to tell us what you know.”

“They camped, they cooked out and they’re here to make memories, the kind that lasts a lifetime,” she added. “But instead, the day turned into every parent’s nightmare.”

Moreau Lake State Park temporarily closed while authorities searched for Charlotte.

Police also manned checkpoints on roads nearby and searched passing vehicles.

The rescue

After getting a fingerprint match for Mr Ross Jr, law enforcement tracked him down to the campervan where he lived behind his mother’s home.

Ms Hochul said that officers made a “dynamic entry” into the campervan and found the suspect inside.

Missing poster for Charlotte Sena (NYSP)
Missing poster for Charlotte Sena (NYSP)

Mr Ross Jr was taken into custody “after some resistance” and little Charlotte was then found hidden and covered inside a cabinet.

“She knew that she was being rescued. She knew that she was in safe hands,” the governor said.

Charlotte outwardly seemed to be unharmed but was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, the governor said.

Her parents were notified that she was found safe at 6.32pm – almost exactly 48 hours after she was reported missing – and the family was reunited on Monday evening.

A GoFundMe page for the Sena family has now raised over $18,000.

“Please donate to help the family during this difficult time,” a message posted on the fundraiser page reads. “Any donations will go directly to her parents to help with any expenses while they transition back into some sense of normalcy.”