Aunt of 9-year-old girl kidnapped from NY campground speaks out: ABC News Exclusive

ByErielle Reshef ABCNews logo
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Kidnapping victim's family speaks out exclusively to ABC News
The family of a little girl who was kidnapped from a NY campground speaks out exclusively to ABC News after her return.

NEW YORK -- The family of the little girl who was abducted on a camping trip in New York State earlier this year and found days later spoke out exclusively to ABC News.

"You always say this type of stuff doesn't happen to you but obviously it can happen to you," said Jené Sena, the victim's aunt.

It was a case that gripped the country.

"Pure torture, pure pure torture really, you're thinking like, what if this doesn't end soon? What if we can't find her, all of the what ifs," Sena said.

ABC News is not naming or showing the 9-year-old and blurring her face at the family's request. Her aunt spoke for the girl's family, fiercely protective of her, as she tries to regain a sense of normalcy.

"Honestly, it's been a roller coaster. She's a child that didn't ask for what happened to her. So, she's trying to resume her normal life," Sena said.

During a family camping trip at Moreau Lake State Park, the little girl was riding her bike with other family members around a loop when she decided to do one more lap on her own and then vanished.

Her sudden disappearance sparked a massive multi-agency manhunt for two days, with her family waiting in agony.

Then there was a bizarre break in the case. Law enforcement said a ransom note was slipped into her parents' mailbox while an officer was watching.

Fingerprints led authorities to Craig Ross, Jr., 47, who had been arrested for a DUI in 1999.

Authorities tracked him down in a trailer behind his mother's home, 13 miles from the victim's house.

Police say the 9-year-old was found alive in a cabinet.

"When you learned that your niece had been located, what was your reaction?" asked ABC's Erielle Reshef.

"I dropped to my knees, screaming," Sena said.

Ross, Jr. is now charged with nine counts of kidnapping and assault, he's pleaded not guilty.

"Unfortunately, the world we live in, there are predators out there. And so justice will be not only him being safely away to not do this to anyone else, but also her having, you know, a great support system and tools, and whatever she needs around her to move forward," Sena said.

"What do you want people to know and take away from your family's story?" Reshef asked.

"This isn't just a headline. This isn't just something to get clicks. This is a real person, a real child, a real family," Sena said.

She hopes it will lead to an increase in sensitivity in the legal system and in the public eye. As for the little girl, she will be spending Christmas reunited with her family.