PHILADELPHIA — An ATM transaction, a grocery store receipt, a call from a car dealer and videos — including one that showed 22-year-old Carlesha Freeland-Gaither manhandled, knocked to the ground, then forced into a car just blocks from her Philadelphia home.
All of it, among other tips and pieces of evidence, added up. And because of that, Carlesha Freeland-Gaither is thankfully back in Philadelphia where she belongs.
The 22-year-old nursing assistant was released early Thursday from Maryland’s Howard County General Hospital, having been reunited with her family after a harrowing three days.
The man who authorities say abducted her — 37-year-old Delvin Barnes — has a new home himself, at a detention center in Baltimore County, Maryland. He is set to have a bail hearing, via video conference from jail, at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Where Barnes will go from there is uncertain, given that he is accused of abductions in Pennsylvania and Virginia. But at least his alleged latest victim, Freeland-Gaither, is now free.
Philadelphia police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says that’s because of “a lot of police work, a lot of tips from the public. But we were able to track it down.”
And the victim’s mother, Keisha Gaither, couldn’t be happier or more thankful. As she said Wednesday night to law enforcement, the media and the public, “Thank you for keeping me up. Thank you for being there for us. I’m taking my baby home!”
On Sunday, Freeland-Gaither went to the house of her mother’s godson, her aunt Dayah Freeland said, and took a bus toward home.
After she was dropped off in Philadelphia’s Germantown-Penn Knox area around 9:40 p.m., the suspect’s car passed her, turned up the street, then met her at an intersection, Philadelphia police Chief Inspector Dennis Wilson told CNN sister network HLN.
It was then that her abductor pounced. Her abduction was captured on surveillance video. It shows Freeland-Gaither being confronted by a man, then forcibly led down the street toward his car. But she fought back. They tussled to the ground, but the man eventually overpowered her and she was forced into the car.
During the struggle, her glasses and cell phone fell into the road. Freeland-Gaither kept fighting — even breaking out one of the passenger side windows — but she couldn’t stop the car from speeding away.
Abductions are hardly unprecedented, but Ramsey said it is rare to see one captured on video.
“I’ve been on the job 46 years, (this is the) first time I’ve ever seen a kidnapping on videotape. (It) really was horrific to watch it unfold.”
This wasn’t the only video that police released.
Another, from just after 6 a.m. Monday, shows a man in a dark hooded jacket using an ATM in Aberdeen, Maryland, which is about 75 miles from Philadelphia.
And on Wednesday, police released an additional video of a man, also wearing dark clothing, making a purchase at a convenience store.
“From that, we were able to trace the car,” Ramsey said. “We were able to then contact Charles City (Virginia authorities), … and things started really falling into place very quickly.”
According to Charles City County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jason Crawley, Barnes is charged with abduction, forcible rape, malicious wounding with a chemical and other charges related to the early October disappearance of a 16-year-old girl. That girl managed to escape after two days, walking 2 miles naked and burned into a business seeking help.
Authorities believe that both that case and that of Freeland-Gaither are stranger abductions, meaning the victims didn’t know who took them.
The travels of Barnes, the man who police think is responsible for both crimes, ended Wednesday night in Jessup, Maryland.
“We surveilled that vehicle in the area,” FBI agent Ed Hanko said of the car Barnes is thought to have used in Freeland-Gaither’s kidnapping.
“… When the subject exited the vehicle, that’s when Ms. (Freeland-Gaither) was recovered.”