Aided by tips from the public, State Police found an 11-year-old girl in a car on the Mass. Pike hours after she was apparently abducted by a stranger in Springfield on Wednesday, authorities said.
Charlotte Moccia was forced into a car by a man in the area of Princeton and Amherst streets shortly after 1:25 p.m., not long after she got off a school bus. Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood told reporters that Moccia was screaming during the abduction. She called the incident “a life and death situation for this little girl.”
“These kinds of situations are very few and far between, a stranger taking a child, but that’s exactly what we had here,” she said. “Everything and everyone came together.”
An Amber Alert was issued at about 5 p.m., and State Police said that at about 7:15 p.m. the agency started to receive calls from drivers in the Warren-Brimfield area of the Massachusetts Turnpike informing authorities that they were near a car that matched the description of the suspect vehicle: a blue Honda that had tinted windows, distinctive after-market rims, no front license plate or inspection sticker, and a moonroof.
State Police who were working a road construction detail in the area slowed the traffic to a crawl and located and stopped the Honda on the Pike’s eastbound side in Brimfield. Moccia was found crying in the back seat and State Police immediately removed her from the vehicle, said agency spokesman David Procopio in an e-mail.
She had no apparent injuries, and was being checked out by paramedics as a precaution, authorities said.
“We hope that she will overcome the memory of this terrible incident and have a long and happy life,” said Procopio.
A man who was in the car’s front seat was arrested. State Police identified him as Miguel Rodriguez, 24, of Springfield. It was not immediately clear what charges he faces. Rodriguez was taken out of the car and gunpoint and then placed into custody without incident, said Procopio. Authorities observed a knife in a door pocket of the car, police said.
Earlier in the day, State Police had asked the public to call 911 immediately if they saw Charlotte, the car, or if they had any information.
Clapprood said a woman may have been involved in the abduction, but authorities are not sure. Moccia’s parents have been notified that she was found.
“The biggest factor in this was the assistance of the public," she said. “The tips coming in were amazing.”
She called Rodriguez “evil" and said he “had her for nefarious reasons.” Moccia was taken to a hospital, but Clapprood said her condition “looks fair to good,” although it was unclear “how much she went through at this point.”
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno told reporters that the incident represented “a family member’s worst fear.”
“It was agonizing and I’m grateful that young Charlotte has been found and I am hopeful and steadfast that swift justice will come,” he said.
Globe Correspondent Matt Berg contributed to this report.