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UPDATE: Missing girl found

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | 2:37 p.m. CDT; updated 7:40 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 7, 2010
A welcome home sign adorns the lawn outside 4-year-old Alisa Maier's home in Louisiana, Mo., on Wednesday. Maier was abducted Monday night from the yard of her home and found safe 70 miles away more than 24 hours later.

FENTON — Police say a man suspected in this week's abduction of a 4-year-old Missouri girl has shot himself after being approached by authorities.

St. Louis County Police say in a news release that the man was approached Wednesday in the city of Hawk Point.

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Hawk Point is about halfway between where Alisa Maier was taken from her front yard Monday night and the St. Louis suburb where she was found late Tuesday wandering around a car wash.

The news release doesn't say whether the man survived the self-inflicted shooting. A news conference was scheduled for later Wednesday evening.

They're calling it another Missouri miracle — a 4-year-old girl abducted from her front yard and found safe 70 miles away more than 24 hours later.

The FBI and police said witnesses late Tuesday saw what they thought was a little boy wandering around a suburban St. Louis car wash. It turned out to be 4-year-old Alisa Maier, abducted Monday night from the yard of her home in Louisiana, Mo.

Alisa was taken early Wednesday to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis for evaluation. After nearly three hours of examinations, the little girl and her parents left about 7:30 a.m., hospital spokesman Bob Davidson said.

"They all looked really tired, like they'd been through a lot, but they also looked overwhelmingly overjoyed at being reunited," Davidson said. "Alisa was sitting in her mother's lap in the emergency room and her mother had her arms wrapped around Alisa like she was never going to let her go."

Davidson declined to discuss details of the examination but said the family asked him to thank those who helped in the search or prayed for Alisa's return. Police also declined to say if the girl had been assaulted.

Police and the FBI turned their attention to finding the abductor. Soon after Alisa went missing, her 6-year-old brother told police a young white man in a dark-colored car had ordered Alisa to get in.

Witnesses at the Fenton car wash where Alisa turned up reported a similar sighting. Police were searching for a dark-colored, four-door car, possibly a Ford Escort, seen leaving the area of the car wash. A dark-skinned white man in his 30s was the driver. Police believe the car either had a hole in the muffler or no muffler at all, and it was missing the hubcaps.

At a Wednesday news conference, police vowed to catch the suspect.

"We have dozens and dozens of leads, and some of them are very good ones," St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said.

"We will not stop until we catch the individual that abducted Alisa."

Alisa's grandfather, Roy Harrison, urged the kidnapper to turn himself in.

"I want to tell that man he's done the first step — he's let my granddaughter go," Harrison said on NBC's Today Show. "He has to step up and take responsibility."

Missouri was the site of another miraculous ending a little over three years ago.

In January 2007, 13-year-old Ben Ownby was abducted after getting off the school bus near his home in rural Franklin County. Four days later, police made a startling discovery: Ben was alive and being held captive in a St. Louis County apartment complex. Even more amazing, police found Shawn Hornbeck with him. Shawn had been missing for 4 1/2 years after being abducted while riding his bike in another rural area.

Michael Devlin was convicted of kidnapping and abusing the boys, and is serving several life sentences.

In the small Mississippi River town of Louisiana, Alisa and her brother were playing in the front yard while their mom was in the house making dinner. The boy told police a man he did not know pulled up and ordered the girl to get in, then drove away.

A neighbor said the frantic mother called police, then took off in a van to search for her daughter.

More than 100 volunteers joined at least five dozen police officers in the search for Alisa. Tuesday night, several hundred people gathered for a vigil in a park in the quiet town of about 4,000 residents.

Around the same time the vigil was breaking up, dozens of miles away in the St. Louis County town of Fenton, witnesses noticed a car with a noisy muffler — or no muffler at all — at a car wash in a strip mall. Later, the witnesses thought they were seeing a boy wandering around the car wash, but it was Alisa.

Fitch confirmed the girl's hair had been cut short after she was abducted. He declined to say if the kidnapper cut her hair or speculate about if it was an effort to conceal her identity.

For now, her family is ecstatic to have her back.

"They were just so happy, hardly any words were spoken" Harrison said of the family seeing Alisa for the first time. "There was a lot of smiling."


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