In a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood thriller, 9-year-old Charlotte Sena was rescued from her captor on October 9, in a daring SWAT operation that left a quiet neighborhood in Greenfield, New York, in shock.
The young girl had been missing since October 7, allegedly kidnapped by 46-year-old Craig Ross Jr. while on a family outing at Moreau Lake State Park.
The subsequent rescue operation from New York State Police and other agencies showcased exceptional law enforcement teamwork.
Local residents described witnessing the dramatic events that night.
Michael, a neighbor, recounted: “SWAT trucks and cop cars were here in seconds, guns out. There was a rapid succession of at least five flashbangs.”
Officers then reportedly stormed the area to rescue Charlotte.
Erica, Michael’s wife, described the overwhelming police presence.
“At first, I saw two cars pull up on my grass, and as I’m coming out to yell [to] get off the grass, police jump out with tactical gear and vests,” Erica said. “The concern was more, what if he runs into our yard and takes my kids or us as hostages?”
During the raid, Erica caught a glimpse of Charlotte’s face and knew that the little girl was inside. The rescue operation ended successfully, with Charlotte being found hidden in a cabinet in Ross Jr.’s trailer behind his mother’s property in Milton.
Governor Kathy Hochul later praised the law enforcement officers for their rapid and efficient response.
According to the governor, SWAT officers executed a “dynamic entry,” a tactical maneuver that led to the apprehension of Ross Jr. and the rescue of Charlotte.
“And she knew she was being rescued. And she knew that she was in safe hands,” Hochul said.
Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any outward harm to Charlotte, as she was reported to be in good health following an assessment at a nearby hospital.
The entire community has since rallied around Charlotte’s family.
The sense of relief was palpable as neighbors, law enforcement and local authorities realized Charlotte was safely recovered.
“She became like everyone’s child,” Erica explained. “Everyone in the area loves her and wanted her to come home. And the police did, too. You can see and hear them exhale. They were high-fiving with smiles. It was an amazing outcome.”
The kidnapping case has sent shockwaves throughout the region.
Charlene, a local mother, expressed her concerns for her children’s safety following the news.
“Now it makes me more suspicious of everybody because you’re going on a bike ride, and you’re that close to your family, and you’re just gone in an instant,” Charlene said of the kidnapping.
The investigation into Ross Jr.’s motives has uncovered disturbing details. Ross Jr. allegedly left a ransom note in the Sena family’s mailbox, demanding $50,000.
His former girlfriend, Amanda Preece, revealed that Ross Jr. knew about the family’s fortune, which was tied to a settlement after a lawsuit involving Charlotte’s late grandfather, Patrick Sena, who had successfully sued the town of Greenfield in 1998.
Preece described Ross Jr. as someone who had a history of financial struggles and a penchant for avoiding work. She suspected that his motive for kidnapping Charlotte was to secure a share of the settlement money, which could have sustained him for several years.
The investigation into Ross Jr.’s past has also raised concerns about his potential involvement in other unsolved cases in the area.
The disappearances and killings of 18-year-old Jennifer Hammond and 19-year-old Christina White, both of whom vanished near the Saratoga County area, have come under renewed scrutiny. While Ross Jr. has not been officially named a suspect in these cold cases, law enforcement is looking into any possible connections.
John Kelly, a criminal profiler, noted the proximity of the locations where the victims were last seen and where their remains were found, as well as the fact that both victims had auburn hair, which could be a potential link.
“Many killers are interested in certain physical characteristics of their victims, which are usually part of their fantasy,” Kelly stated.
While Ross Jr. has a history of violence, including a 2017 restraining order filed against him by Preece, his criminal record is relatively limited. His first documented run-in with the law was a 1999 DWI conviction.
With Ross Jr. now in custody and facing charges related to Charlotte’s abduction, law enforcement remains vigilant in their quest for answers regarding other cold cases in the area.
Ross Jr.’s next court date is scheduled for October 17. He currently is being held at the Saratoga County Jail without bail.