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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • Patrol: Mo. girl found safe, sex offender arrested

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  • Five-year-old Abigail Berthoff, who was abducted in southeast Missouri was found safe hours later Wednesday, and the convicted sex offender suspected of taking her was arrested, authorities said.
    The girl and the suspect were found during a traffic stop at 1:50 p.m. Wednesday along a rural highway about 10 miles south of her hometown of Poplar Bluff, said Poplar Bluff Officer Darron Moore.
    Moore said the suspect's silver 2001 Nissan Pathfinder was spotted and stopped by officers from the Poplar Bluff department, Butler County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The suspect did not try to flee and did not resist arrest, Moore said. He was being held at the Butler County jail.
    The girl was taken to a hospital as a precaution, Moore said. "She was alive and well and appeared to be fine," he said.
    "It doesn't get any better than this, for her to be safely returned to her mother and for the suspect hopefully to be in custody for the rest of his life and never do this again," Moore said.
    Butler County prosecutor Kevin Barbour said he was finalizing paperwork on charges, but declined to say what those charges would entail.
    The child's mother discovered just before 7 a.m. that she was missing and contacted police. A witness saw the child leaving the area of the home with a man police identified as a registered sex offender who lives about a mile away, Moore said.
    Moore said the girl's family does not know the man and it wasn't clear what would have led him to the child, or how he was able to get her out of the home.
    The suspect is a 45-year-old man who was convicted in 1990 for the abduction, rape and sodomy of a 12-year-old girl in Fort Hood, Texas.
    FBI Special Agent Mark Aldrich said dozens of officers in the air and on the ground were searching in the hours before the girl was found, and police in surrounding states also were on the lookout. Poplar Bluff is near the Missouri-Arkansas border.
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