The surveillance footage is horrifying: 22-year-old Carlesha Freeland-Gaither was attacked randomly on a Philadelphia street by a man who forced her into his car, her glasses and cell phone left behind in the struggle. It’s the kind of story where more bad news seems unavoidable. And yet, this time, a miracle: Freeland-Gaither was found alive in Maryland, her abductor captured by ATF agents as he attempted an escape.
“It’s very special for all of us. You hope, you hope, you hope, but you don’t really know until you’re actually able to get her, and make sure she’s OK. So it’s very important that this has a happy ending,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
Law enforcement got a few lucky breaks along the way. The suspect, 37-year-old Delvin Barnes, has a history of violence toward women and was wanted for trying to kill a teenager in Virginia last month. Detectives there recognized Barnes in the surveillance photos spread through news reports. The car he was driving, meanwhile, had been equipped with a GPS tracker by the dealership where he bought it because of his bad credit.
When a woman in Maryland found a bag of trash in her driveway, including a receipt from a supermarket in northeast Philadelphia, a bag of potato chips, and shattered glass, she called the police, having heard about the kidnapping case. Just an incredible series of breaks all around.
The ATF agents eventually caught up with Barnes in a shopping-center parking lot and managed to make the rescue and the arrest. “He was more surprised than anything,” an agent said, according to NBC Philadelphia.
Her family was, too. “I’m taking my baby home,” said Freeland-Gaither’s mother at a press conference last night. “Thank you.”