A 46-year-old New York man pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl after she was abducted during a family vacation.
The girl, whose name is not being released, was kidnapped during a camping trip to Moreau Lake State Park in New York, near Saratoga Springs, on September 30.
On Wednesday, Craig Ross Jr. pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping and predatory sexual assault of a child. The plea deal means the case will not have to go to trial and the victim will not have to testify.
Ross was sent to the Saratoga County Jail to await sentencing on April 17. He faces a sentence of 47 years to life in prison.
More than 400 police officers joined the search for the girl last year as her family grew increasingly desperate until she was found two days later hiding in a cabinet in Ross’s trailer, after Ross slipped a note from ransom in the family mailbox.
Ross has now pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree kidnapping and sexual assault.
Last September, more than 400 agents joined the search for the missing girl.
Ross last appeared in court on February 1. At that hearing, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Buckley said she had a large amount of evidence, including more than 2,000 photographs, surveillance videos, emails and witnesses to present.
After the kidnapping, the girl’s aunt said the girl was trying to get back to normal.
She said: “It’s been a rollercoaster, obviously she’s a girl who didn’t ask what happened to her so she’s trying to get back to her normal life.”
The girl was riding her bike alone on Loop A at Moreau Lake State Park when she disappeared.
She had been cycling with friends and family, but said she wanted to do “one last loop” alone before returning to camp.
It should have only taken a few minutes to complete the small circuit, but after 15 minutes, when his parents realized he hadn’t returned, they became worried.
Her parents called authorities after discovering her bike on the trail, and officials searched the 6,250-acre park but found no sign of her.
After her disappearance, a multi-agency search was launched that spanned 46 miles and included 400 federal, state and local law enforcement personnel and volunteers on the ground.
His aunt said it was “pure torture, pure torture really.” You’re thinking what if this doesn’t end soon, what if we can’t find her, all the what ifs.
Kidnapping victim’s aunt said waiting to be found was “pure torture”
Craig Ross Jr.’s trailer where he allegedly kept the girl in a cabinet
The search continued for two days until Ross left a ransom note in the mailbox of the girl’s family home demanding $50,000 in exchange for her return.
Police were able to identify fingerprints that matched a 1999 DUI charge against Ross and swooped on his mother’s trailer in Milton.
Two SWAT teams, one state and one federal, descended on the property in helicopters, and Ross Jr. allegedly resisted.
They found the girl hiding in a closet.
His aunt said that when she found out he was okay, he “fell on his knees and screamed.”
The girl was taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital after being found, and officials said she was in good physical health after the ordeal.
After the little girl was found, her mother Trisha and father David said: “We are delighted.
“A huge thank you to the FBI, the New York State Police, all the agencies that mobilized, all the families, friends, community, neighbors and hundreds of volunteers who supported us and worked tirelessly to bring her home.”
The trailer in which the young woman was found two days after being kidnapped
Police arrived at the trailer where he lived in the backyard of his mother’s house.
After his appearance last year, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said Ross would be held accountable for his alleged behavior.
Heggen said, “We will do so completely and completely because of the work that has been done and continues to be done by law enforcement to apprehend this defendant who has committed a terrible and heinous crime against a tender, elderly victim.”
“We will hold you responsible and accountable.”
Speaking to ABC News at the time, his aunt added: “Unfortunately, there are predators in the world we live in, so justice won’t just be him being safe from doing this to anyone else.”
“But you also have a great support system, tools and everything you need around you to keep going.”
Ross was arrested by officers after allegedly leaving a ransom note in the mailbox of the boy’s family home, with fingerprints said to match a 1999 DUI charge against him.
Ross, seen here in a previous mugshot, allegedly left a ransom note at the boy’s family home.
He added: “This is not just a headline, this is not just something to get clicks, this is a real person, a real child, a real family.”
Ross, who appeared disheveled in an earlier mugshot released by New York State Police, was described as a “recluse” who would care for his 11-year-old daughter during the middle of the week in their $180,000 three-bedroom home. Dollars.
He had a limited criminal record before being charged with kidnapping; He was first arrested in 1999 for a DWI case, which contributed to his arrest.
Ross Jr also suffers from multiple sclerosis and had just moved into the trailer that officers raided four weeks earlier.