RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. — Yesterday, an anonymous tip led officers to a kidnapped 7-month-old and the arrest of her father. Today, the woman who made the call is coming forward to say the suspect is a "good man."
Taylor Stiltner said she has known Carl Ray Kennedy for about four years. And yesterday, he showed up at her home, with baby Emma.
"I know Carl, and I know he's not gonna hurt that baby," Stiltner said. "It's his baby. I knew he wasn't gonna hurt her."
Stiltner said after Kennedy knocked on her front door with Emma, she called the police. Kennedy was later taken into custody at Stiltner's home.
Following an anonymous tip, police rescued a kidnapped 7-month-old girl and arrested her father at a mobile home in North Carolina, nearly two days after he took the infant from her mother at knifepoint in Virginia, authorities said Tuesday.
A sheriff's deputy entered the mobile home and "immediately grabbed her up and shielded her with great care," Randolph County Sheriff Robert Graves told reporters hours later.
Emma Grace Kennedy "had a great smile on her face and appeared to be in good shape and certainly a great smile on our deputy's face as well," Graves said.
The moment brought an end to the massive search for the girl and her father, Carl Ray Kennedy, a 51-year-old sex offender with a long criminal history. He had painted his gold Suzuki black to try to evade capture, police said.
Emma and her mother, Kristen Murphy, were reunited at a local hospital where the baby was examined, said Murphy's sister, Amy Wyatt Metzger.
Emma is "totally fine and healthy. Everything has checked out just fine," Metzger said.
Kennedy didn't say much when he was arrested, the sheriff said. "He seemed like somebody who had been on the run, who was tired, I guess," Graves said.
The rescue and arrest occurred in Randleman, North Carolina, about 65 miles south of Danville, Virginia, where Emma was abducted Sunday evening at a gas station, police said.
Four 911 calls about 10 minutes apart led police to Kennedy. One woman told the operator Kennedy called her "wanting me to get her some diapers or formula. I'm panicking," she said in the call released Tuesday.
A man called 911 to say he heard from someone who saw Kennedy on the side of a road changing a tire of a car that had been spray-painted black, while a different woman said a friend called her after seeing the father and daughter go inside a home. The names of the callers were deleted in all the recordings.
The same woman from the first call reached out to 911 again to tell operators Kennedy might leave soon if they didn't hurry.
"I've got somebody watching making sure everything is OK. I don't think he would hurt Emma either, but you know," she said.
Virginia State Police had issued an Amber Alert early Monday stating the infant was in "extreme danger."
Metzger said Kennedy had said things in recent months that alluded to hurting Murphy or Emma, such as, "I'm going to blow up your family's house" or "If I can't be with the baby, you can't either."
Kennedy lost custody of the girl a couple of months ago, Metzger said, and had been harassing Murphy and her family in person, by phone and on social media since then.
Kennedy met Murphy a couple of years ago at a nursing home, her sister said. She was a certified nursing assistant and he was a patient in poor health, reportedly from a boating accident, Metzger said.
They lived together for about a year and a half in Randleman, she said. After they split up, Murphy moved in with her mother in Danville.
"Carl does not have anywhere to live," Metzger said. "To the best of our knowledge, he has been floating around at friends' houses, wherever he can stay. He was evicted in March because he was incarcerated at that time."
Kennedy was out of jail on a $250,000 bond on a drug distribution charge at the time Emma was kidnapped, police said.
Police said Kennedy kidnapped his daughter from a Kwik Stop gas station. As Kennedy fled with his daughter from Virginia to North Carolina, police said tips poured in about his location.
Deputy Jimmy Barnes, a SWAT team member, went into the mobile home first, saw Emma and grabbed her, said Capt. Bernie Maness of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office. A second officer, Sgt. Ryan McLelland, came in behind and handcuffed Kennedy, he said.
Maness described it as "a picture-perfect takedown. It was textbook."
Kennedy was being held in the Randolph County jail and will face an extradition hearing to Virginia. Danville police Lt. Mike Wallace said Kennedy will face charges of abduction and related counts.
The family didn't expect this happy outcome. "We were prepared for the worst, honestly," Metzger said.
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