CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police sources said an 11-year-old girl, who authorities believe was kidnapped after her grandparents were slain at an east Charlotte home, may have witnessed the killings.
Arieyana Simone Forney, 11, was found Sunday evening in Washington D.C. and is safe with authorities, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.
Metropolitan Police Department Capt. David Sledge said the kidnapping suspect, Curtis Atkinson Jr., was arrested Sunday after a brief chase. Detectives headed to Washington, D.C. on Monday to interview Atkinson Jr. about the murders.
Officials said that around 8 p.m., a female called 911 from inside the car and said she had been kidnapped. She was able to provide her approximate location to the dispatcher and police quickly began searching for the 2005 white Chevrolet Impala.
Police didn't say whether the caller was the missing girl.
Officers initially tried to stop the vehicle but it sped away and crashed into another vehicle.
Sledge said the girl was taken to a hospital but appeared to be OK.
"The D.C. Metro Police flooded that area and were looking for this car, our white Impala, that we'd been broadcasting and were able to locate that car and they were able to take the occupants of that car into custody and recover Arieyana safely," said CMPD Maj. Mike Smathers.
Police said a second female, 25-year-old Nikkia Cooper, was found in the car and was also taken into custody. She is being held on drug charges and detectives were working to determine her involvement, if any, in the crimes.
Court records show that when Atkinson lost control and crashed, Forney told officers on the scene, "help me."
The documents said that Atkinson rear-ended another car and his niece was thrown forward, and that she ended up wedged between the back and the front seats.
Mark Czerner told The Washington Post that he was photographing cherry blossoms near the Washington Monument when he heard what was likely the sound of the crash.
"I heard a loud thud," Czerner said, adding that he then saw police with guns drawn approach the car. Someone was pulled from the driver's seat and after the front passenger side door was pried open, two more people were pulled out.
He said one appeared to be the girl and she sat crying on a curb next to an officer.
(Curtis Atkinson Jr.)
Police said the girl's uncle, Atkinson Jr., is suspected of killing his parents at their Charlotte home. The bodies were discovered after a fire was apparently set at the house.
Police sources told Channel 9's Mark Becker that they believe Atkinson Jr. killed his parents on Thursday and stayed until Sunday inside the home on Glencannon Drive.
Police told Channel 9 that firefighters were dispatched to the home just after 11 a.m. Sunday when an alarm system detected smoke. Inside, they found a small fire and the homeowners, Curtis Atkinson Sr. and Ruby Atkinson, dead.
According to the police report, Curtis was shot and Ruby died from "other injuries."
An Amber Alert was then issued for Forney when she was reported missing. Her grandparents were also her guardians.
Police will charge Atkinson Jr. with the murders of his parents. Authorities are still trying to determine a motive in the case.
“It is alarming," said Smathers. “This is a quiet neighborhood. This is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we’re out here for this. It’s unsettling for us as well."
It is still unclear who will take care of Forney, since she was living with her grandparents in their home when they were murdered. Police even think that she may have been in the house for several days after the killings, perhaps as early as last Thursday.
On Tuesday, both Atkinson and Cooper appeared before a judge and both waived extradition back to Charlotte.
The slayings were Charlotte's 24th and 25th homicides of the year.
Channel 9 looked into Atkinson's criminal history and found that he served prison time for drug and stolen property convictions dating back to 1999.
Channel 9 even interviewed Atkinson in 2013 after his brother, Arieyana's father, was murdered. That case is still unsolved.
(MAP: Charlotte's 2017 homicides)
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