An Amber Alert was issued in five states as authorities believe a 4-year-old girl was kidnapped by a man named West Wild Hogs. Hogs, 31, who changed his name from Matthew Pybus, is accused of taking Rebecca Lewis from her home in Lakeland, Florida, on October 8. He is from the town of Seale in Alabama. The Polk County Sheriff said that Lewis’ sister said the child was taken around 10 a.m. Since then, there had been sightings of the pair in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Just before 2 p.m. on October 10, Lewis was found safe-and-well in Memphis. Hogs was also arrested at that time.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hogs Was Thought to Be Driving a Car He Stole From His Mother
Hogs is thought to be driving his mother’s car. Al.com reports that he took the car without permission. It is a 2012 silver Nissan Versa with handicap plates reading 4JL26.
He is so far wanted on kidnapping charges. Lewis’ sister said that on the morning of October 8 she saw the 4-year-old sleeping at around 9 a.m. Less than an hour later, Lewis was gone. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Polk County Sheriff’s office and FBI are all searching for the pair. There is a reward of $3,000 being offered for useful information.
On the morning she vanished, Hogs and Lewis were captured on surveillance footage at a McDonald’s in Lakeland. Later that evening, they were spotted on video at a gas station in Forsyth, Georgia. The Orlando Sentinel reports that there has been unverified sightings of Hogs and Lewis at Cove Lake State Park in Tennessee.
2. He Is a Family Friend But Hasn’t Seen Lewis in ‘Several Years’
Al.com reports that Hogs is a family friend to Lewis’ parents but that he hadn’t seen Rebecca Lewis in several years. While the Orlando Sentinel says that Hogs was so close with Lewis’ family that he lived with them until about two years ago when he allegedly pulled a gun on family members. Since then, he has lived with his wife in Seale, Alabama. She last saw the suspect a week before the kidnapping.
The Polk County Sheriff’s office said in a statement that detectives aren’t saying what they believe the motive for the kidnapping is. “The whole family is pretty torn up and very emotional. They just want to know why because they don’t understand why he would have taken her,” said Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilder. He added that it didn’t appear that Lewis’ home had been broken into.
Wilder said that Hogs’ mother and Lewis’ grandmother are close friends.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that officials believe there is a chance that Hogs doesn’t know the police are looking for him. The newspaper adds that he’s a former truck driver who “knows the interstates well.”
3. Lewis’ Mother Says She’s ‘Not Mad’ at Hogs
In an emotional press conference, Lewis’ mother, Melissa Schell, spoke directly to Hogs saying, “Matt we’re not mad at you. Let her come home. She’s my baby and I’m worried sick about her please I’m begging,” reports Fox Tampa Bay. Those sentiments were echoed by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd who said, “Here’s a message to west Wild Hogs: don’t you hurt that baby…You keep that baby safe and take her to a police department, a sheriff’s office, a fire department. You turn her over to responsible citizens at a church. We’ll worry about catching you later, but we want that child back right now.”
4. Hogs Has Had ‘Several Brain Surgeries’
Lewis’ father, Luther Lewis, told Fox Tampa Bay that Hogs’ temperament changed after he had “several” brain surgeries. Luther Lewis said, “He’d do crazy things. He would say obnoxious things. He just wasn’t himself after the surgery.” Official descriptions of Hogs said that he has a ‘L’ shaped scar on the left side of his head.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Hogs has previously been diagnosed with depression and as being bipolar.
5. The Polk County Sheriff Has Criticized Tennessee’s Lack of Response to a Reported Sighting of Lewis
Fox Nashville reports that the Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has criticized Tennessee’s response to reports that Hogs and Lewis had been spotted there at around 10 p.m. on October 9. Judd complimented the efforts of the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement but said about Tennessee, “The state of Tennessee chose not to do an Amber Alert when we asked them to because 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.” Just before noon central time, a text Amber Alert was sent to Tennessee residents.