Miguel Rodriguez is a 24-year-old Massachusetts man who has been arrested in the broad-daylight abduction of an 11-year-old girl in Springfield, police say. Rodriguez is accused of kidnapping Charlotte Moccia as she walked home from school. Police say he followed her as she walked down the street and then forced her into his car and drove off. The abduction sparked an Amber Alert. Charlotte was found safe about six hours after she was kidnapped on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, Springfield Police said at a press conference.
Charlotte was abducted about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. She was found after a driver called police and reported seeing the blue Honda Civic described in the Amber Alert on the Massachusetts Turnpike. The alert had been issued by state police about 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Officers swarmed Interstate 90 east between Sturbridge and Auburn and stopped the vehicle in a work zone about 6:30 p.m.
Charlotte was taken to the hospital as a precaution for evaluation but was not injured, police said. Rodriguez was taken into custody by the Massachusetts State Police and was brought by trooper’s to the barracks Charlton for processing. Charges against him are pending, authorities said.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood told reporters at a press conference, “What happened is I think every parent’s worst nightmare. As far as we can tell, and by all accounts, it was a stranger abduction of an 11-year-old girl came home from school and she was walking to her house. A stranger grabbed her and took her into his car … she was screaming and got in definitely unwillingly and they left the area.”
Few details about Rodriguez and the case have been made public so far.
Rodriguez may not be the only suspect in the case. Police said they believe a female was possibly involved in the abduction and might have been driving the car when Charlotte was kidnapped. Rodriguez was the only one in the car when police stopped it on the highway Wednesday night. Police initially said two arrests had been made. It is not clear if they have identified the woman they think could have played a role in the kidnapping.
“I will tell you that I’ve been doing this for awhile and these type of situations are very few and far between when you actually have a stranger abduction of a small child. That’s exactly what we had this afternoon,” Clapprood said. She said they had to do some investigation before they could issue an Amber Alert.
Clapprood credited the Amber Alert, the efforts of local media to put out the girl’s photo and other info, and alert local residents with helping them bring her home safe.
“What worked well for us was what we practice for, what we train for and what I have technology for. Everybody came together,” Clapprood said. “The biggest factor in this I think was the assistance of the public. The tips coming in were amazing. Text-a-tip lit up. People were calling the detective bureau, we put on extra staff to field the tips coming in. People were out looking for this car. It was amazing. Civilians spotted this car and helped us out immensely.”
Clapprood said about Charlotte, “There are no injuries to her that are visible. We’ll let the hospital staff and personnel talk to her and we’ll go from there.”
Here’s what you need to know about Miguel Rodriguez and the abduction of Charlotte Moccia:
Police Called Miguel Rodriguez ‘Evil’ & Said He Took Charlotte for ‘Nefarious Reasons’
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood told reporters, “we know how badly this could have ended up. He was evil and he had her for nefarious reasons, so the worst can become of this. It was a matter of finding her quickly and not giving him time.”
“Once we realized what we had, we knew that time was of the essence. This was not the kind of case we could go home or we could hand over or we could say ‘we’ll continue this in the morning.’ This was an absolute life and death situation for this little girl,” Clapprood said. “So we dedicated all our resources to it and we had a lot of help. And again, thank you to the public for helping us out and it has come to a very good conclusion, I feel, that she is OK and there is one under arrest.”
Clapprood told reporters, “We were able to get an accurate plate number, we were able to put these out on plate readers. This car was looked on the Mass Pike eastbound, it was stopped, pulled over.
The investigation is ongoing.
“We believe that there may be a female involved at the time of the abduction. So that’s why this investigation will continue, we will look into that,” Clapprood said. “We are told by state police there is one in custody. He’s had quite a few hours to drop off or pick up somebody, so as the investigation goes on we will look into whether there was a female vehicle at the time of the abduction.”
Rodriguez Was Previously Arrested in Springfield in 2018 at a Walmart in the Massachusetts City & Charged With Assault & Battery on a Victim Under 14
Miguel Angel Rodriguez, born October 16, 1995, lives on Bay Street, in Springfield, Massachusetts, authorities say. He was previously arrested at least twice in Springfield, according to online police arrest records.
Clapprood said the suspect “is known to us,” but she said she could not get into specifics.
According to the Springfield Police arrest log from August 2018, Rodriguez was arrested on August 24 at 1:20 p.m. at the Walmart Store on Boston Road in Springfield. He was charged with indecent assault and battery on a victim under 14.
Details of that case and its outcome were not immediately known. It is not clear if the incident that led to his arrest occurred at the Walmart, or if he was arrested there on a warrant from a previous incident.
Rodriguez is also listed in an earlier August 2018 arrest log as being arrested on the morning of August 3 at Baystate Medical Center. He was arrested on an unspecified warrant.
Charlotte Was Walking Home From Hampden Charter School of Science When She Went Missing, Police Say
Charlotte Moccia, and 11-year-old Springfield girl, was walking home from Hampden Charter School of Science when she went missing. After she was reported missing, police realized she had been abducted.
The Springfield Police and Massachusetts State Police released photos of Charlotte and what her school uniform looked like, as well as video of her walking home from school the day before. Police also released photos of a blue Honda Civic they believed had been involved in her kidnapping. The same blue Civic had been seen in the area near where Charlotte was walking on Tuesday, the day before her abduction. It had no front plates and distinctive markings that helped the public and police locate it.
When asked whether the car had been seen in Charlotte’s neighborhood earlier in the week, Clapprood told reporters, “All I can confirm was the car was seen in the area yesterday also.”
Clapprood said of Charlotte, “She will be transported to the hospital to be checked on. Her condition is fair to good. I’m not sure how much she went through at this point but the parents have been notified and as soon as we can we will reunite parent and child. I can’t imagine what they were going through.”
Local reporters were outside the house and heard cheers when the family learned Charlotte was safe:
“We had pictures of what she was wearing quickly. And I can’t stress enough that if we hadn’t put all these resources and we didn’t have all the help we did to recover her as quick as we recovered her, this could be a very different press release tomorrow,” Clapprood said.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno told reporters, “From the onset this was a mom and dad or family member’s worst fear. It was agonizing and I am thankful that young Ms. Charlotte Moccia has been found. I am also hopeful and steadfast — and I can’t say what I want to say about this individual or individuals — but that swift justice comes their way and they no longer can be on anybody’s streets. I want to be very thankful to the professionalism of our brave men and women in blue and to the state police and the public and to our local media.”
He said that many in public safety have their own families and think of a missing child like he or she is one of their children and want to “take this piece of you know what off our streets.”
Sarno added, “This has been a traumatic experience for her. But she is alive.”