Michael Darwin Webb, 51, has been arrested and charged with the shocking kidnapping of 8-year-old Salem Sabatka. Sabatka was brazenly abducted while she and her mother were walking in a Fort Worth, Texas suburb on the evening of May 18.
Multiple law enforcement agencies and members of the public took part in the frantic search for Sabatka. Alert citizens spotted Webb’s car in a hotel parking lot several hours after the abduction, allowing police to rescue Sabatka and apprehend Webb at the hotel. Police have not revealed Webb’s motive for the kidnapping but emphasized that he is not related to the little girl.
Here’s what you need to know about Michael Webb and the Salem Sabatka kidnapping case.
1. Webb is Facing Aggravated Kidnapping Charges
According to the Fort Worth Police Department, Webb drove up to Sabatka and her mother as they were walking in the Ryan Place neighborhood on the evening of Saturday, May 18. He then got out of his car and snatched the little girl at approximately 6:38 p.m. Sabatka’s mother attempted to stop Webb but he violently pushed her away and sped off.
Sabatka was described as a white female, standing 4’5″ and weighing 56 pounds, with brown hair, blue eyes. She was wearing a shirt with the word “Centennial” on the front with purple and seafoam green leggings.
The kidnapper was reported to be an unknown light-skinned black male who was balding with a skinny build, wearing a navy-colored jacket and a gray shirt.
Webb is currently facing a charge of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony in Texas. The charge carries up to a 99-year prison sentence. According to the Texas Tribune, the majority of individuals convicted of aggravated kidnapping serve a sentence of 40 years or longer. It is unclear if other charges will be filed.
2. Webb Has an Extensive Criminal History Dating Back to 1987
While Webb was not known to have a record in Tarrant County, where he was arrested for kidnapping Sabatka, he does have an extensive criminal history in several other Texas counties dating back to 1987. In 2018 he was arrested for sexual assault but the charges were dismissed.
His previous arrests include making a terroristic threat, drug possession, burglary, theft, resisting an officer, evading arrest and theft by worthless check. Webb is described as standing 6’1″ and weighing 175 pounds. He goes by multiple aliases including “Thin Man” and “Calvin Webb.”
3. Webb’s Car Was Captured on a Neighbor’s Surveillance Camera
A neighbor with a video surveillance camera was able to capture footage of the incident. In the video, Salem Sabatka’s mother is seen being forcefully shoved from Webb’s vehicle, a gray Ford Five Hundred four-door sedan with alloy wheels and a paper tag. The car then takes off as Sabatka’s mother runs down the street screaming for help.
4. Webb’s Was Discovered by Two Citizens Conducting Their Own Search
Immediately after the abduction, police asked for the public’s help and provided photos of Sabatka, a description of the assailant, and video of the vehicle. Law enforcement utilized social media and sent out a state-wide Amber Alert to notify the public of Sabatka’s kidnapping.
Webb was discovered several hours at a Woodspring Suites hotel by two citizens who’d seen the police department’s social media posts. “Two local church members saw what we put out on social media and just went looking around,” Fort Worth Police Department Spokesperson Buddy Calzada explained at an early morning news conference.
According to Calzada, the two citizens immediately reported the car to authorities. After police identified Webb as their suspect and determined where he was in the hotel, Calzada said police breached one of the doors, apprehending the kidnapper and rescuing Sabatka. The little girl was described as having a “calm” demeanor during her rescue.
Sabatka was transported to a nearby hospital for a check-up and her family was notified that she had been found and appeared unharmed. She has since been reunited with her family. “God bless Fort Worth. Amazing people, amazing police, amazing everybody,” a family member told WFAA reporter Alex Rozier.
5. Police Credit Two Citizens, the Press & Social Media for Sabatka’s Safe Return & Webb’s Arrest
Calzada credited Sabatka’s rescue and Webb’s arrest to social media, news alerts and the public’s willingness to help with the search. His first news conference about Sabata had over 200,000 views on Facebook and was shared almost 4,000 times.
“You know, we’re here in police uniforms with badges and guns and everybody calls us heroes and now we have two citizens who went out of their way,” he told local reporters. “(The public) assisted us 100 percent. They’re our heroes tonight,” he added.