Springfield police released a statement on Thursday from the family of the 11-year-old girl who was allegedly abducted while on her way home from school and later rescued by police after tips from the public flooded into authorities following the issuance of an Amber Alert.
Carl and Dense Moccia asked for privacy as they recover from the traumatic experience but expressed gratitude to those who helped rescue their daughter, Charlotte Moccia.
“The outpouring of love and support, near and far, is overwhelming,” the parents wrote. “We are eternally grateful.”
The 11-year-old was walking home on Wednesday around 1:30 p.m. when authorities say she was kidnapped by a stranger, later identified as Miguel Rodriguez, 24, of Springfield, who allegedly forced her into his car, a dark blue Honda Civic.
Following the apparent abduction, police shared widely descriptions of Moccia and the car, with an Amber Alert issued by police around 5 p.m. Authorities have credited the tips and calls from the public as key in locating the vehicle and the girl.
Police said around 7:15 p.m. multiple motorists traveling eastbound on the Mass. Pike. called to report seeing a car that matched the description in the Amber Alert. The license plate provided in those calls was put through the readers on the highway gantries to locate the vehicle, along with eyewitness reports. State police troopers working a road construction detail on the Mass. Pike in Brimfield worked to slow traffic to one lane and stopped the suspect vehicle.
They found Moccia in the backseat, with no visible injuries, and arrested the driver, Rodriguez. A knife was observed by police in a pocket of one of the vehicle’s doors. He was arraigned Thursday in Springfield on charges of kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and witness intimidation. He was ordered held without bail pending a dangerous hearing on Jan. 22 and to undergo a mental health evaluation by the judge. A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.
In expressing their thanks, Moccia’s family singled out in particular the “vigilance and courage” of a Springfield woman, Amanda Disley, and her husband, who recognized the car described by authorities after the abduction and followed it as they called police, live-streaming the brief chase.
“We were driving and we pulled up on that Blue Civic, with the plates, the wheels, and everything,” Disley said in one of the videos shared on Facebook, describing how she and her husband followed the car.
“I hope they find that girl, I really do,” she says in another video, recounting the incident. “It’s got me sick to my stomach, I can’t imagine being that mom … I can’t imagine how that mom feels.”
Disley also shared a video, taken by her son in the back seat of the car, during the pursuit.
Her husband, Benny Correa, told the Boston Globe they came across the car around 6:30 p.m. and they recognized it from the photos shared by police.
“I did my fatherly duty,” he told the newspaper of the chase. “If it was one of mine, I would’ve burned the city to the ground looking for my kid. I know that father’s going to hold onto his daughter no matter what. I’m just glad that he gets to hold his daughter again and kiss her good night.”
Springfield police warned Thursday of scams circulating, saying that neither the Moccia family or Disley’s family have started GoFundMe pages.
Please do not donate to any GoFundMe or similar account in Charlotte Moccia's name or Ms. Disley's family. Neither family has a fundraising campaign and these are likely scams. The Moccia family supports and thanks Ms. Disley & her family for helping to bring Charlotte home. pic.twitter.com/AaxA9f1Dfd
— Ryan Walsh (@PIO_SPD) January 16, 2020
Read the Moccia family’s full statement, shared by Springfield police, below:
“My husband and I would like to thank our neighbors; the State, Chicopee and Springfield police (especially Detectives John Lopez and Angel Marrero, Captain Trent Duda, Mayor Sarno, Commissioner Clapprood; all local and national news outlets, family, friends, our Hampden Charter and St. Michael’s school communities, the doctor, nurse and social worker who assisted Charlotte in the ER; and strangers near and far who, via social media, got the word out to help bring Charlotte home. In particular, we’d like to thank Amanda Disley and her husband for their vigilance and courage for putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure she wasn’t out of their sight. The outpouring of love and support, near and far, is overwhelming. We are eternally grateful.”
— Carl & Denise Moccia