DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Davidson County deputies followed every lead, even had some roadblocks.
Still, with assistance from N.C. State Bureau of Investigations and FBI were able to locate a 14-year-old girl and her accused abductor in Arkansas on Friday after a nine-day search.
Officials said a school-issued computer helped track down the suspect and rescue the teen.
During a press conference, deputies and officials called the accused abductor, 38-year-old William Ice, was “sophisticated” with digital media and computers.
After following some leads, deputies determined Ice and the teenager left the state.
Officers located them at a McDonald’s in Lonoke County, Arkansas. Ice shot, and critically injured a police officer, and then led officers on a pursuit before finally coming to a stop when the accused kidnapper appeared to have fatally shot himself.
“We continued to follow leads and hit dead-ends,” said Sgt. Blake. “Just the perseverance to stay on it step-by-step-by-step and follow every lead and wait for an opportunity where he made a mistake to give us an opportunity to locate him.”
Officers say Ice, from Pennsylvania, also contacted several juveniles in Alamance County.
Deputies said Ice was using Skype and other gaming apps to initiate conversations with the children.
Then, on Feb. 11, police say the 14-year-old from Davidson County went missing.
“He was utilizing multiple platforms,’ Blake said. “We found him to be quite sophisticated when it came to digital media and computers. It was a challenge to identify that weakness and exploit it.”
Investigators learned that the teen was using her Davidson County Schools issued computer to communicate with an individual using multiple online platforms.
Investigators then found out Ice was also talking to several other juvenile females in Alamance County.
The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office interviewed those juveniles who provided “beneficial information” about Ice, who at times used the alias Will Hedglen.
“Predators like this are very good at grooming techniques, making these children feel wanted,” Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons said. ‘They are good at exploiting these emotions in children and manipulating them.”
Officials gave a warning to parents about incidents like this, mainly about monitoring who their children are talking to online.
“We really have to understand the apps on our children’s phones and who they are communicating with,” Agent Scott Williams said. “Encourage your children, if you can’t text them on their cellphone, then don’t communicate with them. There are so many apps out here that no one can retrieve the conversation the second that it happens.”
Maj. Robert Miller, with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, said instances like this are why children need to be in school.
He made a plea to state leaders to open up the schools.
“Our leaders of our state and other states, our kids need to be in school,” Miller said. “We got lucky with this one. If your kids come home after school, then they are there with you. Working parents who have to leave a child at school with a system like this, and predators like this, we got lucky. This has opened up a window for any predator out there to walk right on in. Our leaders need to take a stand and safeguard these children.”
The teen has been reunited with her family in Davidson.
Simmons says the girl is doing about as well as can be expected.
She was taken to a center for a forensic interview and a medical check.
Officials have not said what had happened during the abduction.
“She has suffered a traumatic experience after being recovered by Arkansas law enforcement and transferred back here to Davidson County,’ Simmons said. “She gave us a little better understanding of what happened. She is definitely traumatized and has a long road ahead of her to recover from this.”
Below is a timeline of what happened, according to officials:
Investigators say Ice took Childress from her home in Davidson County and took off in his red Dodge Durango.
Deputies say an arrest warrant was obtained for Ice for first-degree kidnapping and soliciting a child by computer.
Leads led officers to locate Ice and the teen in the area of Lonoke County, Arkansas near I-40.
On Saturday night, two Lonoke police officers spotted the car at the McDonalds.
Officers approached the car, with two people were inside, and told Ice to get out of the car.
However, police say as Ice got out of the car, he aimed a gun and shot one of the officers, critically injuring the officer.
A second officer fired back at Ice, who jumped back into the car and took off.
Officers say a pursuit continued until it stopped near a snowbank. The girl jumped out and was secured by a state trooper, according to Davidson County deputies.
Ice was found in the car with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died Sunday in the hospital.
Ice was also wanted in Pennsylvania in connection with another child predator case.
According to Pennsylvania state troopers, Ice had a warrant for arrest for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old.
He also had a pending criminal case for charges resulting from an online sting conducted by the Human Trafficking Task Force in Ohio.
If you have any information regarding this abduction, call the Davidson County Sheriff Office immediately at (336) 242-2105, or call 911 or *HP.
In the community of Denton, the case was a big topic of conversation on Monday.
“We’re a small community and usually when something goes wrong, we have an event, we all pull together to try and help the community,” said Jane Stilwell. “We just thank God that they found the girl and she wasn’t harmed, and God brought her home safe.”
“We’re a close community,” added Penny Wilson. “I’m just glad that she’s okay, they found her.”