A 34-year-old man was charged Monday with kidnapping Abigail Hernandez, the New Hampshire teen whose case has brought a national spotlight to the small mountain town of Conway, where she went missing nine months ago and was returned to her family last week.
Nathaniel E. Kibby was arrested at his home in Gorham, N.H., the state attorney general’s office said in a statement. He was scheduled to be arraigned in Conway on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite the apparent leap forward in the investigation into Hernandez’s disappearance, law enforcement officials remained quiet Monday on the circumstances of the kidnapping and how the teen came to be reunited with her family. They said Hernandez, 15, helped lead authorities to Kibby.
“Over the course of the past week, law enforcement officers have worked around the clock to ascertain the facts and circumstances surrounding Abigail’s disappearance and return,” the attorney general’s office said Monday. “Abigail Hernandez provided the police with details of her kidnapping sufficient to warrant today’s arrest.”
Officials said Kibby is accused of “knowingly confining” Hernandez on Oct. 9, 2013, “with a purpose to commit an offense against her.” They did not release any further information.
Hernandez’s mother, Zenya, spoke publicly for the first time in remarks aired on the “Today” show Monday morning. She said that her daughter’s appearance was markedly different when she returned home last week.
“She was very thin, very thin. She lost a lot of weight, very pale, she had a look in her eyes that I’ve never ever seen before,” Zenya Hernandez said.
She reasserted her belief that Abigail did not run away and did not know the man who took her.
On the Facebook page “Bring Abby Home,” run by two friends of the Hernandez family, supporters posted an update shortly after officials announced Kibby’s arrest.
“We really truly cannot thank everyone enough,” they said. “All the help, support and those who offered hope when we felt hopeless . . . you all are amazing people. Abby is home safe and the suspect is in custody!! Thank you!!!!”
A family spokesman could not be reached Monday.
Kibby lives on Brookside Drive in Gorham, according to the attorney general’s office. His home is about one hour away from Conway, nearly 40 miles across White Mountain National Forest.
Town property records list Kibby as the owner of a $19,000 mobile home. The 1,000-square-foot trailer has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with a small deck and shed, according to the records. Neighbors could not be reached by phone Monday afternoon.
Authorities asked that anyone with information about Kibby and activity at his residence since early October to contact New Hampshire State Police.
A police log published in the Conway Daily Sun indicated that Kibby may have had a court appearance during the time that Hernandez was missing. A person named Nathaniel E. Kibby, with the same age and hometown, was fined $350 after he pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in a Conway court the week of Dec. 2, 2013. Jane E. Young, an associate attorney general in New Hampshire, declined to comment on the infraction and whether Kibby was arrested at that time.
Earlier Monday, Hernandez said in a statement that she wished she “could personally thank everyone who looked for” her. Billboards and posters were displayed along roadsides and in shop windows throughout Conway after Hernandez disappeared while walking home from school last October.
The FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to her safe return or the arrest of the person responsible for her disappearance. Her mother and father offered a combined $40,000 to anyone with information that could help bring their daughter home.
Authorities have not said whether a tipster was involved in Hernandez’s return or Kibby’s arrest.
In her statement, released through the “Bring Abby Home” group, Abigail Hernandez said her “gratitude is beyond words.”
“It’s an incredible feeling to be home and I believe in my heart that your hopes and prayers played a major role in my release,” she said. “Thank you all for the welcome home.”