Missing North Carolina girl found alive, chained to tree

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – A 6-year-old girl reported missing from her home in Wilmington, North Carolina on Wednesday has been found alive.

Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro was found Thursday morning about two miles away from where she was abducted. She was located in a wooded area and chained to a tree, according to a witness.

An Amber Alert was issued for the girl Wednesday night.

Douglas Edwards, 46, of Wilmington is in custody and has been charged with first-degree kidnapping. According to officials, he is a registered sex offender.  Public records show Edwards was convicted in 1996 of first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a minor. The victim was six-years-old at the time.

New Hanover Sheriff Ed McMahon said Edwards was under surveillance overnight and officials took him into custody Thursday morning. He did not give an exact location. McMahon says the community stepped forward to help with leads.

“I have a granddaughter at that age,” McMahon said, getting emotional at the news conference. “It’s personal when this is in our community and this stuff doesn’t normally happen, so this is very personal and it should be to everybody.”

A friend of the family said Lopez-Castro was taken to the hospital for treatment.

A spokesperson for New Hanover Regional Medical Center sent along the following statement from the girls’ family:

We would like to first and foremost thank God, the police department, the sheriff’s office and all the communities that went out to search for her in the rain and on their own time. Thank you to our neighbors and friends and St. Mary’s Church who were praying for her and any others who were praying for her.

The family asked for privacy while they rejoice in Castro’s return.

A witness involved in the rescue said the girl was found chained to a tree in a wooded area. The man said he was flagged down while driving to work. Authorities asked if he had any bolt cutters, but he didn’t have any. The witness gave authorities a battery-operated saw and they went into the woods to cut the girl free.

The man said he walked back and saw Lopez-Castro lying on her back. He said she did not say a word and seemed very calm.