CONWAY, N.H. — Abigail Hernandez clasped her hands and fixed her eyes on the lanky man in the orange jumpsuit accused of kidnapping her while she walked home from school last fall, just days before her 15th birthday.
Little more than a week after she was reunited with her family, Hernandez watched Tuesday as Nathaniel E. Kibby, the man who allegedly held her captive for nine months, was arraigned in Conway District Court.
Kibby, 34, of Gorham, N.H., was held on $1 million cash bail. His lawyer asked Judge Pamela Albee to enter no plea, saying he did not have enough information about the kidnapping charge to advise his client on a plea.
At a news conference after the arraignment, Jane E. Young, associate attorney general for New Hampshire, said, “This arrest is the first step of this case.”
She released few details about the alleged kidnapping, or about how Hernandez was returned to her family, saying the investigation is ongoing into where the Conway teen was held, whether she and Kibby knew each other, and whether others were involved.
Police have interviewed hundreds of people, analyzed social media, and used cellphone tower records in their investigation, said Kieran Ramsey, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division.
“We didn’t let any lead go unpursued, any tip go unchecked,” Ramsey said, remaining tight-lipped on details but saying some agents’ “worst fears were proven true.”
Young said investigators had enough evidence to obtain search and arrest warrants Sunday night but waited until Monday so SWAT teams could form a plan for taking Kibby into custody.
Inside the courtroom, Hernandez sat next to her mother, Zenya, who leaned forward intently with her chin in her hands. Hernandez sat back straight, blond streaks coloring her dark hair, and barely moved or made a sound.
She wore flip-flops and jeans, mostly stared down or at the judge, and appeared thinner than in old photos released around the time she went missing.
Jesse Friedman, a public defender appointed to represent Kibby, outside of court would say only that Kibby is “mindful” of the charge, and “he’s not too happy to be in this circumstance, and I think you guys will find out a lot more on another day.”
Hernandez’s family rushed from court after the proceeding, shielding the teen’s face with a jacket and declining to comment. Kibby is charged with kidnapping her from North-South Road in Conway.
About 40 miles north in Gorham, state and federal investigators combed through Kibby’s property, which includes a small shed and a red shipping container in the backyard. Neighbors recalled Kibby as a loner who sometimes criticized the government and owned guns.
Wallace and Janet Corrigan, who own Gateway Trailer Park and live there, said Kibby moved onto the property in 2009. He owned his trailer and always paid his rent, $300 a month, on time, they said.
“It was a surprise to us,” Janet Corrigan said. “You see the SWAT team show up and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is happening right in our backyard.’ ”
Don St. Germain, 76, and his wife, Jeannette, 71, said authorities descended on their quiet neighborhood Monday in full uniform with rifles ready.
“Just like you watch ‘CSI,’ when they come in fast like a drug bust,” Jeannette St. Germain said.
Don St. Germain said it was hard to believe Hernandez might have been kept in his neighborhood, but if she was confined, “you would have never known.”
Crystal Lutz, 31, said her cousin, Angel Whitehouse, dated Kibby for several years and even lived with him on Brookside Drive, but they broke up a couple years ago. A knock at the door of a Gorham home listed for Whitehouse went unanswered Monday.
Kibby attended some of Lutz’s family events, she said, and “used to complain” about the government “all the time” while sometimes acting aggressively toward her cousin.
Court records show Kibby has had numerous brushes with law enforcement, including many in 1998, when he was a student at Kennett High School in Conway, the same school Hernandez attended last fall.
He was found guilty then of assaulting a female student by grabbing her while she tried to board a school bus. That same year, he faced charges for using false information to buy an “AK-47 type weapon,” according to a police report.
Kibby additionally racked up several trespass violations and faced charges for theft and unlawful manufacture of a controlled drug after police allegedly found a small marijuana growing operation in his room.
More recently, he faced a $350 fine for being found in possession of marijuana on Oct. 22, 2013, in North Conway, according to court records. That was less than two weeks after Hernandez disappeared.
Kibby also faced assault and trespassing charges in connection with an altercation in March. The incident came after a February car accident in Redstone, N.H.
Eric Ray, the other man involved in the accident, said Kibby had gone to his house after he served Kibby with small claims papers at Kibby’s job in Conway. He said Kibby either threatened or hit Tammy Shackford, Ray’s girlfriend, causing her to slip and bruise her elbow.
Ray said he saw Kibby at a court proceeding last week, and “he was just very, very arrogant, smirking and smiling.”
After that incident, Kibby was ordered not to possess any firearms as part of his bail conditions. Court records show he called Gorham police to his home March 4 to seize several guns, so as not to violate his bail conditions.
Police referred all questions to the attorney general, whose office declined to comment on the visit.
Kibby later protested the bail conditions in a court filing, saying his firearms were “of immense equitable value” and that he was not a threat because he lived by an “objectivist libertarian moral code.”