Authorities: 14-year-old NC girl was one of several youths accused kidnapper spoke with online
Posted February 21, 2021 1:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2021 4:53 p.m. EST
Lexington, N.C. — A Davidson County girl was back home with her family on Monday, two days after she was rescued more than 700 miles away following a recent abduction.
Savannah Grace Childress, a 14-year-old from Denton who was missing for 10 days, was found in Arkansas on Saturday night after a chaotic sequence in which her suspected abductor shot a police officer and drove off before she was able to escape to safety.
The suspected abductor, William Robert Ice, 38, of Jackson Center, Pa., died Sunday at a hospital from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police in Lonoke, Ark., which is about 30 miles east of Little Rock, found Ice in a Dodge SUV outside a McDonald's restaurant off Interstate 40 on Saturday.
Officers recognized the vehicle as one being sought in connection with Savannah's disappearance. As officers approached the vehicle, Ice aimed a gun at them and fired, critically wounding one officer, authorities said.
The wounded officer was airlifted to a nearby hospital for treatment and was expected to make a full recovery. A second officer was unharmed.
An Arkansas State Police trooper saw the SUV leaving the parking lot and started pursuing it. Ice eventually drove into a snowbank, where the vehicle became disabled. Childress was able to get out and run to a state trooper.
According to police radio traffic, she told authorities Ice had numerous weapons in the SUV. Officers again approached the vehicle and found Ice slouched over the steering wheel with a gunshot wound to his head, according to radio traffic.
Davidson County authorities said Monday that they are trying to piece together what occurred between the Feb. 11 abduction and Saturday, noting that they weren't ready to go into detail other than to say that Ice left the state with Savannah immediately after the abduction.
Savannah had talked with Ice online, using her school-issued computer, before she went missing, authorities said. He also was talking with as many as 10 youths online, including two 13-year-olds in Alamance County, authorities said.
Ice was sophisticated in his use of social media, first passing himself off as a teen in his online conversations before later showing himself as an adult, authorities said. He also used an alias, they said.
Investigators said they have no indication as to why Ice was contacting juveniles in central North Carolina.
He was wanted in Pennsylvania under similar charges – there were outstanding warrants on charges of physical crimes against a child – and he was caught in an exploitation sting in that state.
Ice's body was taken to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory to determine the manner of death.