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Fugitive arrested, girl safe in Baltimore

Police crafted ruse to snag Rockefeller

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Ryan Kost and Meghan Woolhouse
Globe Correspondent And Globe Staff / August 3, 2008

Authorities captured Clark Rockefeller in Baltimore yesterday and found his daughter safe inside an apartment nearby, ending an intense weeklong search that included rumors of escape by boat to Peru or Bermuda and reports that the two had been spotted in disguise in the Caribbean and in New Jersey.

Police found 7-year-old Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, whom Rockefeller is accused of kidnapping one week ago, in an apartment on Ploy Street in Mount Vernon, a neighborhood of historic brownstones and row houses.

"Her first words were that she was very happy to see nice people," FBI Special Agent Noreen Gleason said at a news conference in Boston late yesterday afternoon to announce the arrest. The girl was a "little nervous" about being left alone, added police Deputy Superintendent Tom Lee.

Reigh's mother, Sandra Boss, was "overjoyed by this news," said Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, who opened the press conference.

Lee said that when he and Gleason told Boss that her daughter had been found unharmed she collapsed into his arms. Telling the mother that her little girl was safe was a "one of the best moments of my police ca reer," he said.

Boss was en route to Baltimore yesterday to be reunited with her daughter, who goes by the nickname "Snooks."

The tip about Rockefeller's location came from a "concerned citizen," Davis said.

The Baltimore Sun reported last night that the tipster was an unnamed real estate agent who rented the apartment to Rockefeller. The Sun also interviewed a witness who said that some 20 armed officers were involved in making the arrest.

Last night, an FBI evidence response team converged on the brick carriage house on Ploy Street in Baltimore that neighbors said had been converted into a three-bedroom upscale unit with its own fenced yard. At about 10 p.m. they removed yellow tape from the scene, and took away several boxes of evidence. They took photos and declined to comment, saying it was a Boston matter.

Inside the window of the carriage house kitchen, large cardboard boxes full of beddings and blankets were visible. The boxes appeared to be hastily unpacked and a rice cooker, a bag of rice, and a bottle of champagne also could be seen.

The abduction drew international media attention as police tried to unravel the 48-year-old Rockefeller's identity. He had cast himself as a socialite and part of the American Rockefeller clan, but the Rockefeller family disavowed any association with him last week. Police have been searching for his Social Security number or birth certificate.

Boss, 41, a senior partner at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., said she, too, had no idea of her husband's true identity in her divorce settlement last December.

Rockefeller faces charges of kidnapping, assault and battery, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, according to Boston police. He was reportedly cooperative at the time of his arrest. He will be arraigned in Baltimore tomorrow, and authorities will seek his rendition to Boston.

Special Agent Warren Bamford, who heads the FBI's Boston office, said at the press conference that officials had been investigating leads in Baltimore for two days after learning that Rockefeller had a 26-foot catamaran in a nearby marina. The agents devised a ruse to draw out Rockefeller out of the apartment by making him believe the boat was taking on water. He left the girl alone in the apartment while he went to check on his boat.

The police ploy was the latest chapter in a weeklong drama that had the makings of a thriller.

Rockefeller whisked the girl off in a black sport utility vehicle last Sunday, police said, paying off friends and acquaintances to drive them to New York City. Reigh and her mother had been living in London in recent months and were visiting Boston and staying at the Four Seasons Hotel. Boss had allowed her estranged former husband to see Reigh under the supervision of a social worker.

The girl, Rockefeller, and the social worker had been walking to Boston Common from the hotel shortly before 1 p.m. when the SUV pulled up on Marlborough Street, police said. Rockefeller grabbed his daughter and threw her into the vehicle, then pushed the social worker out of the way, and jumped inside. The driver sped off.

The kidnapping triggered a massive manhunt for Rockefeller.

Boss issued a public plea to her husband Thursday, imploring him in a video posted on the Boston Police Department website to bring their daughter back.

"Reigh, honey, I love you," she said. "I miss you so much. And remember you're always a princess."

Police said last week that Rockefeller was upset that he had lost custody of his daughter after the couple's divorce last December and he was granted only supervised visits. On Friday, police said they had unconfirmed sightings of Rockefeller in the Caribbean. Employees at a convenience store and a tire shop reported seeing a man and a young girl whose hair had been cut to make her look like a boy. Investigators fielded more than 200 tips, including information that Rockefeller had dyed his hair orange.

Those tips turned out to be false. Police said Reigh, a blond child just 4 feet tall, looked as she had at the time of her abduction.

The kidnapping stunned friends of the couple who knew them when they lived in Cornish, N.H. While some friends and acquaintances have described Rockefeller's demeanor as aloof and remote, others said he was a charming, loving father. He cared for the daughter when the couple lived in Cornish.

Emily Miller, 19, who had baby-sat Reigh in Cornish, said it was an enormous relief that the two had been found.

"I know a lot of people have been worried. It's sad that he had to lie about his life, but I still don't think he would do harm to Snooks," she said in a phone interview. "At the same time, it's a giant weight lifted off everyone's shoulders."

The ordeal of the past week has been a shock for those who knew the family, Miller said. "Now that this whole investigation is going through, it's shocking people he isn't the Rockefeller they thought he was."

Neighbor and friend Joan Littlefield said that Boss lived in Boston weekdays and that Rockefeller spent his days with the child and oversaw the renovations of the couple's $2.9 million historic house

"I'm glad he came to his senses," Littlefield said yesterday. "It's worrisome, because there's so many possible outcomes. I think everybody in the country just felt heartsick for" the girl's mother.

Farah Stockman, in Baltimore, and Rachana Rathi of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Megan Woolhouse can be reached at mwoolhouse@globe.com.

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