Abducted 6-year-old girl found alive, chained to a tree

Posted at 1:59 PM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-15 15:59:52-04

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. – Six-year-old Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro, who was abducted from her home in the Royal Palms community off Carolina Beach Road Wednesday night, has been found alive.

Officials said that Lopez-Castro was found Thursday morning about two miles from where she was taken and is doing well.

Douglas Edwards, 46, of Wilmington is in custody.

Edwards, who was picked up in New Hanover County Thursday morning, has been charged with first-degree kidnapping.

While authorities would not release any more public information on Edwards outside of a courtroom, he is listed on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry.

According to public records, Edwards was convicted in 1996 of first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a minor. The victim was 6 years old at the time.

Sheriff McMahon said Edwards was under surveillance all night and officials took him into custody Thursday morning; he didn’t say where.

McMahon says the community stepped forward to help with leads.

“I have a granddaughter at that age,” McMahon said, getting emotional at the news conference. “It’s personal when this is in our community and this stuff doesn’t normally happen, so this is very personal and it should be to everybody.”

A friend of the family said Lopez-Castro was taken to the hospital for treatment.

A spokesperson for New Hanover Regional Medical Center sent the following statement from Castro’s family:

“We would like to first and foremost thank God, the police department, the sheriff’s office and all the communities that went out to search for her in the rain and on their own time. Thank you to our neighbors and friends and St. Mary’s Church who were praying for her and any others who were praying for her.”

The family asked for privacy while they rejoice in Castro’s return.

Earlier Thursday morning, authorities were searching for the missing girl along River Rd.

A witness involved in the rescue said the girl was found chained to a tree in a wooded area.

The man said he was flagged down on River Rd. while driving to work.

Authorities asked if he had any bolt cutters; he did not.

The witness gave authorities a battery-operated saw and they went into the woods to cut the girl free.

The man said he walked back and saw Lopez-Castro lying on her back. He said she did not say a word and seemed very calm.