LOUISA — Media coverage and alert citizens led to a Wednesday night tip that ended with the safe recovery of a Louisa County girl who authorities say was abducted Oct. 21 by a friend of her family, law enforcement officials said Thursday.
Isabel Shae Hicks, 14, of Bumpass, now is safe with family and recovering from the nine-day ordeal, Louisa sheriff’s officials said during a press conference.
Bruce William Lynch Jr., 34, also of Bumpass, is being held at the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange on abduction charges, police said. A bond hearing has yet to be scheduled and other charges could be filed as the investigation continues, according to authorities.
Sheriff’s Maj. Donald Lowe said a tip from a Caroline County resident who saw Hicks resulted in a police chase Wednesday evening, after which Lynch was arrested and Hicks returned to her family.
“Isabel Hicks is at home now with her family and those who love her and we couldn’t be any happier,” Lowe said.
Lowe said a caller notified local law enforcement that someone meeting the description released by police was seen in Caroline County. Police investigated the tip, discovered the vehicle Lynch had been driving and a pursuit ensued.
No one was hurt in the chase, police said.
Lowe read a statement from Hicks’ family thanking everyone involved in the search and investigation.
“We just want to say thank you to any and all law enforcement, anyone that prayed, came by and made dinner, donated money or even drove around looking for Isabel,” Lowe read. “She’s at home, she’s tired and overwhelmed by everything. We truly appreciate everything that’s been done to reunite our family in one of the worst times of our lives.”
Police estimated that more than 400 tips came to law enforcement after newspaper, radio and television news organizations publicized Hicks’ disappearance. Police obtained warrants for Lynch on abduction charges and a nationwide Amber Alert was then sent out Oct. 25.
To issue an alert, a law enforcement agency must believe the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death and have investigated enough to eliminate alternative reasons the child may be missing.
Tips came from across the region and state and outside the state, officials said.
“It’s not often enough that law enforcement gets to stand in a press conference and announce a successful recovery of a young person who has been missing for an extended period of time,” said Neil Mathison, assistant special agent in charge of the Richmond field office of the FBI. “Two crucial partnerships we had in this investigation were the media and the community.”
Hicks was taken from her home early on the morning of Oct. 21. FBI agents quickly joined Louisa County sheriff’s deputies and state police looking for both Hicks and Lynch. Although there was no sign of a struggle at the home, deputies were able to obtain the abduction warrant.
The pair traveled in a blue-and-silver 2003 Toyota Matrix with a broken right rear door handle and had camping gear with them, leading investigators to believe they may have been camping to avoid detection.
Investigators declined to comment on where the pair had been during Hicks’ disappearance, citing the criminal charges and the fact that Hicks is a juvenile.
“This started out as a missing person investigation and it’s now a criminal investigation involving a juvenile and there is a different set of rules applying here,” Lowe said. “We’re not trying to hide anything but have to be very, very careful about what we disclose.”