Craig Ross Jr. was identified as the suspect who is accused of abducting 9-year-old Charlotte Sena from a New York state park and hiding her in a camper cabinet on his mother’s property, according to the state’s governor, Kathy Hochul.
“Within the camper they located the suspect,” Hochul said during a Monday evening news conference. “After some resistance, the suspect was taken into custody, and immediately the little girl was found in a cabinet, covered. She was rescued.”
Ross appears to have deep roots in the area. A woman whose past Facebook posts indicate she is the mother of Ross’s son, who plays high school football in the area, changed her profile picture to a photo of Charlotte Sena with the word, “Found.” Heavy is not naming her, however, because she has not been implicated in the crime in any way. She wrote along with a photo showing Ross and their son in his football uniform, “Even though we’re not together, we love are son very much…”
Ross is 47 years old, the governor said, but authorities later updated his age to 46, according to NBC News; public records reviewed by Heavy show him with addresses in Saratoga County, New York. Hochul said in the October 2 evening news conference that the suspect left a ransom note at the home of Charlotte’s parents, David and Trisha Sena. The note led authorities to Ross, and, ultimately to the missing child, who was found alive, Hochul said. She gave the suspect’s full name as Craig Nelson Ross Jr.
At 4:20 a.m., the case “started to break,” according to Hochul. A “car pulls up to a mailbox. Something is left,” she said, adding that police went to the mailbox and found a “ransom note” that had been left behind.
“He literally drove up to the family’s mailbox” and put the ransom note in it, Hochul said, adding that it “happened very quickly” and was dark.
Charlotte was found in good health on October 2, 2023, according to New York State police. The 4th grader vanished on September 30, 2023, while camping with her family, after taking an extra bike loop by herself in a New York state park, Hochul said in a previous news conference.
It was a rare happy ending to a disappearance that ignited an Amber Alert and massive search effort. “This is a very good day,” Hochul said in the evening press conference.
“It was every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Craig Ross Jr. Lived in a Camper Behind His Mother’s Mobile Home, the Governor Says
The Times Union reported that Charlotte was found on property owned by Ross’s relatives along Barrett Road in Milton, New York. Property records reviewed by Heavy show that Craig Ross Jr., 46, lived on Barrett Road. Ross’s mother owns a home on Barrett Road where police were believed to be searching.
According to Hochul, the property contained a “double-wide house” where Ross’s mother lived. The suspect lived in the camper behind it, the governor said.
The property on Barrett Road that lists to Ross’s mother contains a mobile home that is about 980 square feet, per property records.
New York State police confirmed in a press release that the missing girl had been found alive.
“On October 2, 2023, through the course of the investigation, State Police identified an individual as being in the area of the Moreau Lake State Park around the time Charlotte went missing,” police wrote on October 2. “Further investigation led to the search of multiple residences where the individual is known to reside. Upon the search of those residences, at approximately 6:32 p.m. on October 2, 2023, State Police located Charlotte Sena safe and in good health. The suspect was taken into custody.”
According to Hochul, Charlotte was taken to a Saratoga County hospital and united with her family.
The New York State Police news release was headlined, “Missing Saratoga County Child Found Safe.” Hochul described how the girl’s parents were overcome with grief while she was missing. Hope faded, initially, as each hour went on, the governor said.
2. Craig Ross Jr. Is Accused of Leaving His Fingerprints on the Ransom Note, Which Matched to a 1999 Drunk Driving Arrest
After retrieving the ransom note from Charlotte’s parents’ mailbox, Hochul said authorities began processing it for fingerprints.
At 2:30 p.m. on October 2, authorities got a hit on the fingerprint, according to Hochul.
The print matched an old drunk driving arrest of Ross, she said.
Hochul told CNN the suspect’s “fingerprints were already in a law enforcement database.”
Hochul said authorities also used cell phone pings to develop a list of suspects.
In an earlier press conference, Hochul described how Charlotte Sena’s family and friends “came here to just have an ordinary time. The kids could have a chance to be in nature, have a chance to be kids. And they came to this beautiful scenic state park, Moreau State Park.”
Hochul described Charlotte as a kind child who was recently elected to be a class officer at her school.
Local Union 773 Plumbers, Pipefitters, Steamfitters and Service Technicians out of Queensbury, New York, said on Facebook that Charlotte’s father, David Sena, is a member of their union. The community rallied around the family, according to posts from the union.
3. Craig N. Ross of Corinth Has Past Arrests for Aggravated Harassment & Criminal Obstruction of Breathing
The governor did not explain Ross’s full criminal history. Public records give the Craig Ross Jr. tied to Barrett Road as Craig N. Ross, who also lived in Corinth, New York.
Ross Jr. has lived in Ballston Spa, Porter Corners, Mechanicville, Middle Grove, and Galway, New York, per public recods.
A Craig N. Ross of Corinth was arrested in 2016 for second-degree aggravated harassment, according to a story in the Saratogian.
In 2017, the Saratogan lists another accusation against Craig N. Ross: “Obstruction: Craig N. Ross, 40, of Corinth was arrested April 21 and charged with criminal obstruction of breathing, a misdemeanor.”
A Facebook page for Craig Ross, which is linked to various relatives, including his mother, has 26 friends and no photos.
The Times-Union initially reported that the suspect was 51 and a sex offender, but then removed that information; due to the age given, it appears those details did not refer to Ross. There is no Craig Ross Jr. on New York’s sex offender registry.
In an October 1, 2023, press conference, Lt. Col. Richard Mazzone of the New York State Police said Charlotte’s bike was discovered at 6:45 p.m. on September 30, 2023, a half hour after she went missing while camping with her parents, David and Trisha Sena.
Hochul spoke at the news conference on October 1.
“I promised her parents we’ll find their daughter. She’s all of our daughters,” Hochul said. “Their family needs love. They need prayers. And if you know anything, if you’ve seen anything, you hear anything, please contact 911 to tell us what you know and what you may contribute to the search for this little girl.”
4. Authorities Canceled an Amber Alert for Charlotte Sena As They Explored the Motive of Craig Nelson Ross Jr., Who Lived Only Miles From Her Parents’ Home
It’s not yet known whether the suspect knew Sena’s family, according to Hochul. The address for the suspect was 13 miles from Charlotte’s home, but it’s not clear whether he knew her or had her “under surveillance,” the governor said. A vehicle registration for him was registered to a property near Charlotte’s home, the governor said.
The news that Sena was located came right after an Amber Alert for Sena was canceled, according to MissingKids.org.
A senior investigator told the Times-Union that the investigation “is largely focused on theories that the child was pulled into a vehicle against her will or dragged into the woods.”
Authorities have not released a motive.
5. Craig Nelson Ross Jr. Has Multiple Sclerosis & Was Described as a ‘Recluse,’ Reports Say
Daily Mail reported that Ross has multiple sclerosis that would lead to falls and caused him to fall behind on bills.
Neighbors told Daily Mail he had just moved onto his mother’s property because his MS had worsened, and said he was quiet. He recently covered the RV’s windows with a tarp, according to Daily Mail.
In her initial press conference, Hochul gave a vivid description of the scene. Described as a “recluse,” he has an 11 year old daughter, Daily Mail reported.
According to the governor, “It wasn’t dark, it’s right around dinnertime,” when Charlotte “did a couple of loops with close friends she considers her cousins. And then she decided after going around, she said she’s finally going around one more time by herself. Be that big girl, do it by herself. Literally 15 minutes later, she hadn’t come back yet. And that’s really when the nightmare begins.”
Her parents knew immediately something was up. They called her name. People started searching, people from other campgrounds joined. And 30 minutes later, at 6:47, Charlotte’s mother, Trisha, called 911. The scene was chaotic. People leaving their food, leaving their tables, just everyone in search, calling the name, ‘Charlotte, Charlotte.’ By 7:00 p.m., the state police were on site. And for the last 18 hours—18 plus hours teams from the New York State Police, dogs, aviation, our bloodhounds are here. The sword operators, special response teams are on site. New York State Park Police, forest rangers, underwater rescue teams and drones. We brought in technology experts also to analyze other forms of communications in the park at that time.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the child was last seen near Loop A, Site 18, in Gansevoort, New York at about 6:45 p.m. on September 30, 2023.
Charlotte was last seen wearing Orange tie-dye Pokemon shirt, dark blue pants, black crocs, gray bike helmet,” the center wrote before Charlotte was found. “The child was taken under circumstances that lead police to believe that they are in imminent danger of serious harm and/or death. Anyone with any information on this abduction is asked to call the New York State Police at (518) 457-6811 or dial 911 to provide information on a report or sighting.”