Ready for the best news you'll hear all day? Abigail Berthoff, the 5-year-old Missouri girl who went missing earlier this week, has been found! Alive! And Jeffrey Dean Shelton, the sex offender charged with abducting the little girl, has been whisked off to jail by cops.
In a week that's brought us the arrests of teenagers in two different states for the alleged murders of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway and 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale, this was the sort of news we needed. Yes, horrible things happen to kids. But that's no reason to give up hope.
As we can see with Abigail, there are happy endings too.
Shelton, who lived about a mile from Abigail's family, is on the sex offender registry for the abduction, rape, and sodomy of a 12-year-old back in 1990. How the little girl might have ended up with him is still a mystery -- although this just hammers home why we need these registries, doesn't it? Because once a predator, always a predator.
Abigail's family said they last saw her sitting on the family couch in her princess nightgown. When her mom realized she was gone, she immediately called cops. Interviews with neighbors uncovered a witness who recalled seeing a little girl with Shelton, and that's when the search kicked into high gear.
It gets scary from there. Shelton's girlfriend has told police she walked into his place, and when she found Abigail, he beat her up. Shelton allegedly bound the woman with duct tape, then took off with the little girl, threatening to kill both her and the girlfriend.
But that's where the search and rescue mission comes into play. Cops say they nabbed Shelton at a traffic stop, and they were able to rescue little Abigail in what sounds like was the nick of time. She's sure to have some trauma from the ordeal, but she's physically OK.
It's news that brought me to tears this morning, on a week when I've been on even higher alert than normal. I know the deaths of Jessica Ridgeway and Autumn Pasquale are to blame for how I've snapped at my daughter as she's rushed out the door in the morning for the bus. "Get back here," I've yelled, even though she's mere feet in front of me, in a neighborhood that's always been "safe." I'm on edge. We're all on edge. And the fast-approaching night when millions of American kids will be roaming the streets in the dark hasn't exactly helped set my mind at ease.
That a sex offender allegedly struck out and took a child doesn't make me feel better. But the news that Abigail is safe, that the system worked, that we have a win for the good guys, does.
If nothing else, I know that there is still good in this world, that all the time we spend posting these notices to Facebook and getting the word out about missing kids can make a difference.
I'm hoping the very best for sweet Abigail that she and her family can put this trauma behind them, and she can grow up to have a wonderful life ... just the way she should.
Have you been following Abigail's case? How do you feel about what's happened?
Image via Amber Alert