'She's the strongest little girl I've ever seen': Jury hears det - | WBTV Charlotte

'She's the strongest little girl I've ever seen': Jury hears details of search and rescue in accused kidnapper's trial

Authorities found the 6-year-old in a wooded area off River Road. (Source: WECT) Authorities found the 6-year-old in a wooded area off River Road. (Source: WECT)
Douglas Nelson Edwards (Source: New Hanover Co. Detention Center) Douglas Nelson Edwards (Source: New Hanover Co. Detention Center)

On day two of Douglas Nelson Edwards' trial, the jury heard details of the search and rescue of the 6-year-old Wilmington girl he's accused of kidnapping. 

After reportedly snatching the girl from in front of her home on Sept. 14, 2016, Edwards, a registered sex offender, allegedly chained her to a tree in a wooded area off River Road. She was found the next morning, and Edwards was arrested soon after. He reportedly admitted to taking the girl, according to a court document.

Detective Lisa Hudson with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office took the stand again Thursday to continue her testimony from Wednesday when the state showed a recording of a voluntary interview given by Edwards the night of the kidnapping. In the interview, he denies knowing anything about a missing girl.

Before the jury entered the courtroom, Judge Phyllis Gorham denied a request by the defense to cross examine Hudson about an interview with Edwards. Edwards is facing a charge of attempted first-degree murder, and Hudson reported that Edwards apologized for his actions during one of his interviews with detectives.

Todd Radabaugh with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission also took the stand Thursday. He said that anytime there is a search of a remote area, his office is called to help. He said that several officers were involved in the search efforts for the missing girl. Radabaugh discussed wildlife found in the area off of River Road where the victim was found.

Radabaugh said the victim could have encountered alligators, several types of poisonous snakes, and coyotes. He noted that search teams encountered mosquitoes and gnats in the heavily wooded area.

District Attorney Ben David asked Radabaugh what he believed those conditions could mean for the young victim.

"Absolutely I believe it could be fatal," Radabaugh said.

A New Hanover County Schools bus driver was called to the stand to describe to jurors what she saw on her return route on River Road on Sept. 14. Crystal McGirt recalled that a moped pulled in front of her. She said that she remembers seeing a small child in front of the driver, and gave a description of the driver matching Edwards.

A still image from surveillance video taken from the county bus was shown to the jury. The time stamp was just before 5 p.m., and McGirt said that's when she passed the moped stopped on the side of the road.

McGirt gave a statement to officers the next morning after learning about the abducted child. The location McGirt reported on River Road was used to begin the search of the wooded area nearby.

Lieutenant Scott Croom with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office took the stand Thursday afternoon. Croom said he volunteered to conduct a grid search with Detective Shaun Dixon and his K9, Bane, a tracking hound.

Bane pointed Croom and Dixon in the right direction by tracking the girl's scent from her pillowcase and skirt. Croom said he saw something pink, and knowing the victim was last seen wearing pink clothing, began running in her direction.

"I paused because I have a daughter that age," Croom said. "I became emotional because I knew what that was."

Croom said he wasn't able to tell if the girl was alive initially. She was crouched with her T-shirt pulled over her knees. Croom said she was covered in mosquitoes.

He described a chain tethering the girl tightly to a tree, locked with a padlock. Authorities flagged down two men on their way to work to help cut victim free.

Several detectives and deputies with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office said that they provided surveillance for Edwards last Sept. 14 in Carolina Beach. They said he did not leave throughout the night.

Michael Sorg with the sheriff's office arrested Edwards on Sept. 15, 2016. He said he followed Edwards that morning until he was advised to arrest him.

After the jury was dismissed for the day, the defense attempted to ask Sorg if Edwards told him that he intended to bring the victim water. District Attorney Ben David called on Edwards to take the stand. 

"What they're (defense) attempting to put forward is self-serving hearsay," David said.

The defense said that they has not decided if Edwards will testify. They are not expected to call any other witnesses to the stand.

Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein said the state expects to call between 35-40 witnesses throughout the trial. The victim is expected to testify remotely sometime early next week alongside her mother and a facility therapy dog.

In November 2016, a grand jury indicted Edwards on the following charges:

  • Attempted first-degree murder 
  • First-degree kidnapping
  • Two counts of taking indecent liberties with children
  • Statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult
  • Statutory rape of a child by an adult
  • Assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury

On Wednesday jurors heard from several members of law enforcement, who recounted the alert for an abducted child. 

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.

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