Abducted four-year-old Missouri girl found alive, person of interest shoots himself

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Location of Louisiana, Missouri, the abducted girl's hometown.
Image: Arkyan.

The Amber Alert issued for four-year-old Alisa Maier of Louisiana, Missouri was canceled after Maier was found alive at a gas station late Tuesday night, just over 24 hours after her kidnapping. A person of interest in the incident shot himself when approached by police on Wednesday afternoon.

The young Maier was playing with her six-year-old brother, Blake, when investigators say she was kidnapped at around 8 p.m. CDT (0200 UTC) Monday evening. The brother ran inside the home to alert his parents after seeing an unfamiliar person drive away with his sister. Police say that the boy was the only witness to the incident, and provided them with a vague description of the suspect and vehicle in the case. Both of Maier's parents were inside their residence at the time of the abduction, and did not notice the incident until their son came in for help. Maier's mother attempted to pursue the kidnapper while waiting for police to arrive, but was unsuccessful.

An Amber Alert was issued shortly afterwards, and over 100 searchers, some volunteers, began scouring through Louisiana on Tuesday morning. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also joined in the investigation. Currently, the Louisiana Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, FBI, and St. Louis County Police Department, are all involved in the investigation.

At around 9:45 p.m. CDT (0245 UTC) Tuesday, Maier was found alive and apparently unharmed wandering near a car wash in Fenton. St. Louis County police were alerted to the area after several people reported that a small boy had been left unattended at the gas station. After talking with the child, police realized it was the missing Maier. She was taken to SSM St. Clare Medical Center for evaluation, released, and then taken to the St. Louis County Police West County Precinct. Early Wednesday morning, she was taken to another hospital, SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, for more tests. Police said that Maier's hair was cut, possibly to make her look like a boy, but have not said whether she was sexually assaulted.

Maier's family was said to be "elated" over the girl's safe return. They recently moved into the town of 4,000, where they have family, but Alisa Maier was born in Ohio. Louisiana is about 80 miles (128.7 kilometres) north of St. Louis and is situated next to the Mississippi River.

On Wednesday afternoon, law enforcement officials were following a man driving a dark car to a home in Hawk Point, Missouri when the man reportedly shot himself around 4:30 p.m. CDT (2130 UTC). The man, called a "person of interest" in the case, was then transported to a Lake St. Louis hospital. Authorities have not officially released the man's identity, but sources identified the individual as Paul Serling Smith, a 38-year-old registered sex offender previously convicted of sodomy. The shooting occurred about midway between where the kidnapping took place and where Maier was found. Smith was listed in "critical condition" Wednesday night, and later died.

Smith was reportedly spray-painting his car silver when three police officers approached him. He refused to put down a handgun he was carrying and shot himself in the head. According to one official source, police were able to find the man through a tip from one of Smith's relatives.