SPRINGFIELD — A terrified 11-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped off the street by a 24-year-old man in Springfield on Wednesday told police that the suspect brandished a knife and threatened to kill her if she screamed or tried to escape, authorities said.
The chilling allegations were contained in a police report filed in the case against Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who was arraigned in Springfield District Court Thursday on charges of kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon, and witness intimidation.
A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf, and he was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing slated for next week.
During an interview with investigators after her rescue, the child said Rodriguez “pointed a knife at her and told her that if she screamed or tried to escape that he would kill her.”
Judge Michele Ouimet-Rooke ordered Rodriguez held without bail Thursday and also ordered that he undergo a mental competency evaluation. Rodriguez wore a white Tyvek suit to court, signaling that police had seized his clothing.
During his arraignment, Rodriguez’s hands were cuffed behind his back, and the burly man was flanked by a half-dozen court officers. The Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, was appointed to represent him.
Rodriguez allegedly grabbed Charlotte Moccia off a Springfield street and forced her into a blue Honda Civic around 1:25 p.m. Wednesday, an abduction witnessed by citizens who alerted Springfield police. Springfield police issued a citywide alert around 4:30 p.m. and also notified the state’s Fusion Center about the need for an Amber Alert, which was issued Wednesday evening, triggering a deluge of tips to police.
Detectives reviewed a neighbor’s home surveillance footage from Tuesday and discovered that on that day, a blue two-door Honda appeared to be following the child as she walked home from school, according to the police report.
And, the report said, investigators also learned about another incident involving a different girl on Jan. 13. In that case, the girl’s father told police that his child was walking home from school near a McDonald’s on State Street in Springfield when a blue Honda Civic driven by a “white male” pulled up next to the girl, and the driver tried to coax her into the vehicle.
She ran into another business and called her father, who arrived to pick her up and also took down the suspect’s license plate, which was registered to a car that belongs to Rodriguez’s father the report said.
After the kidnapping Wednesday, Amanda Disley along with her husband, spotted the Civic on Berkshire Street, saw someone being pushed down in the back seat, and began following the car while talking with Springfield police 911 dispatcher Jacquelyn Gerry,authorities said Thursday.
Disley and her husband, who posted a video of their pursuit of the blue Honda Civic onto Disley’s Facebook account, provided a critical piece of information: the license plate number of the suspect’s car. Police narrowed their search from every blue Honda Civic in the Springfield area to the specific vehicle spotted by motorists traveling east on the Massachusetts Turnpike around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
State Police troopers, who were on the scene for highway repairs, slowed traffic until they were able to surround the car, pull the child out of the back seat and take Rodriguez into custody at gunpoint, officials said. A knife was found in the driver’s side door when it was stopped on the Pike in Brimfield, according to State Police.
The child was physically unharmed by the ordeal, which lasted about six hours, and she was later reunited with her parents, according to Ryan Walsh, public information officer for the Springfield police. "Charlotte’s family is asking the media to respect their privacy,'' he tweeted Thursday morning.
Later on Thursday, Charlotte’s parents, Carl and Denise Moccia thanked police, city and school officials, medical workers, the public who helped in the search, and the media in a statement.
“In particular, we’d like to thank Amanda Disley and her husband for their vigilance and courage for putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure she wasn’t out of their sight,” they said. “The outpouring of love and support, near and far, is overwhelming. We are eternally grateful.”
When Rodriguez was stopped, he was the only adult in the car. Walsh said Thursday that police continue to investigate whether a woman was also in the car at any point during the kidnapping ordeal. However, police are now convinced that Rodriguez acted alone, according to Walsh.
"The SPD Detective Bureau under the direction of Captain Trent Duda are not looking for any additional suspects in connection with Wednesday’s abduction,'' Walsh wrote. "The one and only suspect, Miguel Rodriguez, is in custody.''
According to the Springfield police log, Rodriguez was arrested Aug. 24, 2018, by Springfield police on a charge of indecent assault and battery on a child. He was taken into custody on a warrant. However, what happened to the case is not clear. There is no publicly available court record in the Springfield’s clerk’s office.
Rodriguez’s father, Henry, told MassLive that his son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and that he has not been taking the medication prescribed for his mental illness.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said in a statement that “no family should have to go through this.”
“I want to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to bring Charlotte home and I am hopeful that our court system does the right thing and keeps ‘this monster’ off our streets forever,” he said.
Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
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