4-year-old girl is found and returned to her family

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | 7:52 a.m. CDT

FENTON — A 4-year-old girl who had been missing for more than 24 hours was reunited with her family after she was found wandering around a car wash more than 70 miles from her home, authorities said.

Alisa Maier was found late Tuesday in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton after police received a call about a child alone at the car wash, FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu said. She had been missing since 8 p.m. Monday, when she was snatched from her front yard in Louisiana, Mo.

"Alisa Maier has been recovered. She is doing well," Louisiana police chief Rich Hughes said.

Witnesses at the car wash noticed the child around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday after a car with a loud muffler got their attention, Wu said early Wednesday. The car was described as a black or dark brown four-door vehicle with missing wheel covers on the driver's side.

An officer who arrived at the scene said Alisa looked tired, Wu said. She was taken to a hospital and has been reunited with her family.

"They're obviously very happy they have their daughter back," Hughes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Attention now turns to the search for a man suspected of taking the girl. Police had only a vague description of the abductor — possibly a white male with dark hair in his late teens or early 20s. Also, witnesses at the car wash told police the driver of that car was a man possibly in his early 30s with darker skin, said St. Louis police chief Tim Fitch.

Authorities have declined to disclose what the girl told officers about her ordeal.

Alisa and her 5-year-old brother were playing outside Monday while their mom was in the house making dinner. The boy told police a man he did not know, driving a four-door car, pulled up and ordered his sister to get in before driving away.

At least 60 police officers and more than 100 residents, some from as far away as St. Louis, joined in the frantic search for Alisa.

Louisiana is a Mississippi River town of about 4,000 residents 80 miles north of St. Louis.

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