An alert security guard outside a Memphis hospital helped find a missing 4-year-old girl and her abductor on Monday afternoon.
Law enforcement officials in Florida said Wyatt Bunker, an employee at Baptist Hospital East, recognized the car that West Wild Hog was driving near the hospital on Walnut Grove Road near I-240.
The employee notified Memphis police, who arrested Wild Hog and safely recovered Rebecca Lewis, who had been reported missing from Polk County, FL, on Saturday.
“Our baby’s coming home,” said Oma Mae Lewis, Rebecca’s grandmother. “We were keeping faith that Becky would come home.”
Florida officials credit the power of the media, social media and a Tennessee Amber Alert to the success of finding Rebecca safe.
Officials do not know if Wild Hog had been planning to bring Rebecca into the hospital.
GREAT NEWS! Rebecca Lewis has been recovered in Memphis and is safe. West Hogs is in custody. Thanks for all who got the word out.
— TBI (@TBInvestigation) October 10, 2016
Early Monday morning officials said the man accused of kidnapping a 4-year-old girl in Florida was spotted in Nashville.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued a statewide Amber Alert after 31-year-old West Wild Hogs was caught on surveillance video with the girl at the Shell gas station on Antioch Pike near Interstate 24 at 2:28 a.m.
Rebecca Ann Lewis was first reported missing in Polk County, FL, on Saturday morning. The girl’s teenage sister said she woke up around 9:45 a.m. and realized that Rebecca was missing from her bed.
The girl’s parents said they searched the area around their home for an hour before calling law enforcement. Officers searched the house and other nearby homes but did not find her.
Hogs, described to be a “longtime friend” of the family, is accused of abducting the girl from her home and driving her north.
The pair was later spotted at a gas station along Interstate 75 in Forsythe, GA, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The next day, the TBI said there was a “credible” possible sighting of the girl at Cove Lake State Park in Campbell County, TN between 10 and 11 p.m. A park ranger reported seeing a man and child matching their descriptions at the park.
The NBC affiliate in Lexington, KY, reports that the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office sent out a news release about a “possible sighting” of the pair on I-75 in Whitley County, KY, around 11 a.m. Monday.
Rebecca was last seen wearing a pink dress with light-colored leggings. She is 3 feet tall with blonde hair and blue eyes and weighs 30 pounds.
Hogs is 5’8″ with red hair and blue-green eyes. He has a scar shaped like the letter “L” on the left side of his head. He also has tattoos of a blue cross and a Chinese symbol. Hogs was last seen wearing a light-colored shirt and jeans.
They may be driving in a 2012 silver Nissan Versa with Alabama handicap tag number 4JL26. The vehicle was reported stolen in Alabama. The car has a magnetic animal rescue paw on the trunk on the driver’s side.
Hogs has active warrants for kidnapping in Polk County, FL, and for auto theft in Phenix City, AL.
Police have set up a hotline for tips about the whereabouts of Rebecca and Hogs. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 1-877-419-0934.
Amber Alert issues
Five states, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, have issued Amber Alerts.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd expressed his disappointed with officials in Tennessee for not issuing an Amber Alert when he asked them to.
“They said there was no evidence at the time that Rebecca and West Wild Hogs was in Tennessee. Well, here’s a news flash Tennessee: He was there,” Judd said.
At first, the alert was only issued for East Tennessee. Just before noon on Monday, officials expanded the Amber Alert to include the entire state.
The TBI issued this statement on Monday afternoon in response to the sheriff’s remarks:
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is the designated clearinghouse for missing children for the state of Tennessee and the only law enforcement agency in the state that can issue an AMBER Alert.
We have issued a statewide AMBER Alert, after a verified sighting of Rebecca Lewis and West Hogs shortly before 2:30 CST this morning in the Nashville area, of which we became aware at approximately 9:30 CST this morning.
Early Sunday morning, we received a phone call from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, asking our agency to issue an AMBER Alert in connection to this case, which was apparently part of an effort to encourage states across the southeast to do the same. We indicated that since there was no specific information the child was in Tennessee at the time that we were not able to issue an AMBER Alert. We did, however, agree to issue a BOLO (Be-On-The-Lookout) for law enforcement, which we did immediately.
Early Monday morning, immediately after receiving information about a possible sighting of Rebecca Lewis in Campbell County, we set about utilizing our established processes to expand the reach of Florida’s AMBER Alert, specifically in East Tennessee. That notification included interstate signage, social media, website (www.tn.gov/tbi), and secondary notifications – such as cell phone alerts – offered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
As mentioned above, the situation escalated in Tennessee when authorities verified use of a bank card connected to Hogs in the Nashville area this morning. Tennessee issues AMBER Alerts regionally (East, Middle, & West) and has activated in all three regions in this instance out of an abundance of caution. Our intention is to reserve AMBER Alerts for verified sightings and specific, actionable information that might result in the successful recovery of missing children determined to be in imminent danger. We would urge anyone who happens to see Lewis or Hogs – or the vehicle in which they may be traveling – to contact 911 immediately.
We are confident we have done everything possible – within the bounds of our established policies and practices – to assist authorities in Florida, given the information available to us throughout this event. We remain in constant contact with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and stand prepared to assist in any way as this ongoing search effort continues.
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