She was just being a kid. During a weekend camping trip with her parents at Moreau Lake State Park, not far from their home in upstate New York, 9-year-old Charlotte Sena strapped on her gray helmet and hopped on her bike to join friends for a ride around a popular loop as the day wound down. At about 6 p.m. on September 30, the blonde, green-eyed fourth grader asked if she could “go around one more time by herself,” New York governor Kathy Hochul said. But when Charlotte didn’t return after 15 minutes, her parents, David and Trisha, knew something was wrong. “They were here to make memories, the kind that last a lifetime,” Hochul said. “Instead, the day turned into every parent’s nightmare.”

Charlotte had vanished. Her parents started frantically looking for her. “The scene was chaotic,” Hochul said. “People leaving their food, leaving their tables…everyone joined in the search.” 400 certified search and rescue personnel, K-9 units and bloodhounds were combing an area encompassing more than 46 miles. Then came an unexpected break in the case: Police lifted a fingerprint from a ransom note left in the Senas’ mailbox. Two days after the fourth grader disappeared, state and FBI SWAT teams descended on a camper trailer where Charlotte was discovered — alive — inside a cabinet. “[Police] were high-fiving with smiles,” says a neighbor who witnessed the daring rescue. “It was an amazing outcome.”

Kathy Hochul
Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

A Miracle Discovery

Shortly before dawn on October 2 — while Charlotte’s parents were still looking for her at the state park — authorities say 46-year-old Craig Ross Jr. drove to the Senas’ home in Porter Corners, New York, and left a ransom note in the mailbox. Police ran a print found on the letter through law enforcement databases, and that afternoon they got a hit, matching it to prints from a 1999 DUI arrest, which led them to a camper parked behind his mother’s home. Ross, who suffered minor injuries during a struggle amid his arrest, has been charged with first-degree kidnapping.

Ross’ son Joshua is disgusted by what his father allegedly did. “We want nothing to do with him He’s disgusting…. I couldn’t give a f–k if the dude dropped dead tomorrow.”

The Sena family is overwhelmed with relief that Charlotte’s abduction had a happy ending. “We are thrilled that she is home,” says Jené Sena, Charlotte’s aunt. “We understand that the outcome is not what every family gets.”

Have a tip? Send it to us! Email In Touch at