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7-year-old girl survives being choked and thrown from bridge into lake

WORCESTER — A 7-year-old girl was dozing on a chair at a late-summer cookout at her grandparents’ house this weekend when a 35-year-old man kidnapped her, choked her, and heaved her off a bridge into a lake, authorities said.

She swam for her life and survived. Now her alleged attacker, Joshua Hubert, faces charges. His motives are still unclear.

“She was put in a car, strangled, and thrown off a bridge into Lake Quinsigamond,” Worcester police said Monday in a statement. “She survived the drop and swam to shore, where she was eventually discovered with visible, but not life-threatening injuries.”

She was found 90 minutes later in Shrewsbury.

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Meanwhile Hubert, a Worcester resident described as a family friend, was arrested on a kidnapping charge.

“The investigation continues,” Worcester police said.

Hubert was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing slated for Thursday, according to District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office. His lawyer for the arraignment could not be reached for comment. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

“Fortunately, a greater tragedy was averted,” Early said in a separate statement. “The young victim had the strength to make it to shore and get help. I want to thank the resident who answered the door and helped the girl. I also want to acknowledge the Worcester and Shrewsbury police and the State Police Detectives assigned to my office. They did a terrific job working together in investigating this case.”

Prosecutors said Hubert “was reported to have been a guest at the cookout” before he allegedly took the girl. A motive for the horrific abduction and assault was not disclosed.

Authorities did not identify the girl or the person who discovered her in Shrewsbury, nor did they provide details on the specific location where she was found.

Monday’s arraignment was not Hubert’s first experience with the court system.

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He clashed several years ago with Valerie Zawalich, the mother of his son, in an ugly custody dispute that led to Zawalich being fired as a police dispatcher after she took the child without permission even though Hubert had custody, according to the Telegram.

“I’m thrilled,” Hubert told the newspaper in 2009 after he was reunited with the boy. “But I’m not thrilled that my son is in the middle of this. She uses him like a pawn.”

Zawalich could not immediately be reached for comment. A call to a number listed for Hubert’s address on Bernice Street in Worcester wasn’t immediately returned.


John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.