LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia State Police say a 14-year-old Louisa County girl has been located safely after she went missing Oct. 21, and the AMBER Alert for her has been canceled.
An AMBER Alert was issued Friday night for Isabel Shae Hicks who was with 33-year-old Bruce Lynch Jr., of Bumpass, Virginia.
At approximately 8:48 p.m. Wednesday the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office’s emergency dispatch center received a call from a citizen reporting a sighting of the 2003 Toyota Matrix mentioned in the AMBER alert, according to a CCSO statement.
“The vehicle was in the Ladysmith area and was traveling northbound on Rt. 1,” Sheriff’s Tony Lippa, Jr., said.
“The search was in Caroline County, thank you Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, and it’s the epitome of community policing when everyone works together," said Louisa Co. Sheriff’s Major Donnie Lowe at a news conference Thursday.
Watch Thursday’s press conference here:
Deputies were dispatched to the area where they eventually caught up with the vehicle on Rt. 1 near the intersection of Paige Road.
“The stop occurred with backup from [deputies] and a Virginia State Police trooper as several other Caroline units were arriving on scene,” Lippa said. “The perpetrator was taken into custody by CCSO without incident.”
Lynch and Hicks were positively identified in the vehicle. Hicks was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
“We are so grateful for the concerned citizen who made the call and followed the vehicle until deputies were able to overtake the vehicle and I am so proud of the men and women of our CCSO who made the stop, apprehended the perpetrator, and reunite the missing juvenile with her mother,” Lippa added.
The vehicle was towed to the western part of the county while a deputy followed with Lynch in his custody.
Investigators said people across the region provided roughly 400 tips as part of this search effort.
“We looked at every one of them and took every one of them seriously,” Lowe said. "We looked at every one of them and followed it all the way through.”
“It was an observant set of eyes from the community that made that one call that we needed to bring Isabel home safely to her family,” said Special Agent in Charge for FBI Richmond Neil Mathison.
A court clerk said Lynch will be arraigned in Louisa County Juvenile and Domestic Relation Court Friday at 9 a.m.
Lynch is currently at Central Virginia Regional Jail where he faces an abduction charge, however, more charges are likely as the criminal investigation gets underway.
“The event started out as a missing person... but it’s now a criminal investigation that involves a juvenile," Lowe said. "So now there are a new set of rules that actually apply here. We’re not trying to hide anything from you but we have to be very very careful about what we can disclose.”
Hicks’ family released the following statement:
"We just want to say thank you to any and all law enforcement, anyone that prayed, came by, made dinner, donated money or even drove around looking for Isabel.
She is home, tired, and overwhelmed by everything. We truly appreciate everything has been done to reunite our family in the hardest time of our lives."
“It’s not often enough that law enforcement gets to stand at a press conference and announce a successful recovery of a young person who has been missing for an extended period of time, yet here we are," Mathison said.
Investigators said Wednesday they received several new leads after the teen, who disappeared on Oct. 21, and her mother’s ex-boyfriend were positively identified at a home in Hanover County late Monday.
Watch Wednesday’s press conference live here:
Wednesday investigators said they would be moving their resources to other parts of Montpelier and outside of the town due to new information they received. The U.S. Marshals were also involved in the search.
“We still want to keep it as broad as we can," said Louisa County Sheriff’s Office Detective Chuck Love. "We’ve tried to push this out in multiple states, so now that he’s seen the resources that can be pulled together in this short amount of time we’re worried that he may try to leave this area.”
Since Monday, authorities met with dozens of citizens in order to track down Hicks and Lynch who were last seen at a home in Montpelier that night.
“Though we didn’t locate Isabel, we were able to determine that Isabel is unharmed and that Bruce did not display aggression during this incident,” Love said.
More than 200 people helped in the search efforts in Hanover County.
“A lot of individuals have gone out and searched through some really dense forest areas, have checked abandoned buildings, garages and homes in the area and done so in a methodical way,” Love said.
During this search, investigators said Wednesday they were able to collect several pieces of physical evidence, however, the 2003 bluish silver Toyota Matrix the pair were believed to be traveling in had yet to be found.
“Individuals that are driving any sort of blue Toyota are being pulled over and looked at," Love said. "They’re getting to the point where they’re saying no this is not the car that Bruce and Isabel are in. That shows that people are very aware of what’s going on around and that’s what we’re looking for from everybody.”
Authorities also released a new photo of what Lynch would look like now that he is clean-shaven.
“All we can do is continually state that Isabel belongs home," Love said. "As a parent we all believe that if someone were in this situation and if they care about that individual to make sure they’re with their family and they’re safe.”
Officials said Hicks was believed to be in extreme danger.
A Hanover County sheriff’s lieutenant said Tuesday that a call for service came in just after 9 p.m. from a resident who says the pair came to the home in the 14000 block of Clazemont Road in Montpelier.
The encounter was only a few seconds, he said, and they did not come into the house, rather took off into the woods behind the property.
Within minutes, a half-mile perimeter had been established and much of the area was locked down.
“There’s been a very methodical, slow, coordinated search right now in the area surrounding the area where they were last seen," said Hanover Co. Sgt. Steve DiLoreto. "That’s in the upwards to two miles from the original area.”
“The terrain is hard," Lowe said. "It’s a little hilly at time, but you’re talking about miles of woods and some of them are very dense. They’re going through every inch of them and it can be very tiring.”
Investigators said the description of the pair also changed - Lynch no longer had a beard and both of them had on dark clothing or a camo outfit.
“They’ve had a lot of resources out here," Lowe said. "They’ve had fixed wings, helicopters, we’ve had tact teams out here, canine, bloodhound control - all hands on deck out here talking to neighbors and talking to pretty much anyone we can talk to hoping that something will come up that’s beneficial.”
The community was asked to stay vigilant and to check any outdoor cameras and properties for the two.
“Our goal remains to bring Isabel and Bruce home safely," Lowe said. “If Bruce and Isabel are listening to this, please, please, please bring her home safely so we can get them the help they need without escalating any kind of events that put them in a dangerous environment.”
Investigators added Tuesday the area where Hicks and Lynch were spotted is familiar to Lynch.
“This has been an area of interest since day one," Lowe said.
The FBI, Virginia State Police, Louisa and Hanover County Sheriff Offices and Henrico County Police were all involved in the search for Hicks and Lynch.
Additional tact teams from the FBI and Virginia State Police were brought in from across the state to aid in the search.
“Just frantic because nothing like this ever happens in Montpelier,” Logan Davidson said.
Those living in the area say they have never seen anything like this.
“All kinds of police vehicles, trucks, cars - you name it and they are here. It’s pretty interesting,” Nick Lawrence said.
Others familiar with the area say it’s swampy and rough, and believe there are plenty of places to hide.
“It’s definitely like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” Love said.
Authorities said Lynch will turn 34-years-old in a couple of weeks and is a known acquaintance to the family. A felony abduction warrant was also obtained for Lynch.
Deputies say they don’t believe that Hicks was taken forcibly. According to deputies, Lynch has suicidal tendencies and has a 9 MM handgun. He does not have a known criminal record.
“We ask everyone hearing this to continue being those extra set of eyes,” Love said.
Hicks might be wearing a gray American Eagle Sweatshirt and skinny jeans.
Deputies advised the public to look out for the make and model of the car because they believe the tags had been switched and could be Virginia tags UXM-3614 or yellow Virginia “Don’t Tread on Me” tags with 2449UT. They also say the right rear door handle is missing.
Anyone with information on the case should call the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office at 540-967-1234 or Louisa Crime Solvers at 800-346-1466. You can also call the FBI at 804-261-1044 with information.
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