– More money is now being offered in the search for the person or persons responsible for the abduction of a 5-year-old girl from a Philadelphia elementary school.
The Philadelphia NAACP, Black Clergy, and other African American leaders have raised $10,000 as a reward for information that leads to the capture of the suspects.
The latest reward is in addition to the existing $10,000 posted by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Citizens Crime Commission.
Last Thursday, five girlfriends of the victim’s father were brought into police headquarters for questioning – a day after the father was questioned. The father was released from the Special Victims Unit after more than two hours of questioning Wednesday night.
Although police have previously stated he passed a lie detector test and is not a suspect, sources say detectives confiscated his cell phone.
On Thursday night it was learned the little girl’s mother has hired legal counsel, Tom Kline, who represented a victim in the Jerry Sandusky trial.
“Unimaginable, unthinkable, and something which we have to look long and hard at to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Kline said about the case.
Meanwhile, Action News has learned investigators sent the t-shirt the 5-year-old girl was wearing when she was discovered out for DNA testing.
Also on Thursday, angry parents came to the Bryant School where the abduction took place, to talk with school officials about the 5-year-old student who was taken right from her classroom.
“This shouldn’t just be for today. Every day when you ring that doorbell you should ID that person. Every day. You can’t just let anyone walk in there,” parent A’Lyca Doe said.
Earlier in the week, Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard admitted that Bryant Elementary did not follow proper protocol for school visitors.
On Thursday, he repeated his sentiment to parents.
“They did not do their job. Protocol was not followed. It’s not a difficult protocol. The ball was dropped and that’s why we had a breach in security. That’s how we had a student who was put in danger,” Gallard said.
The district met with parents at the school looking for feedback to make the school safer.
The district will implement a new safety plan, making sure all faculty and staff know correct protocol, as well as have radios to communicate.
There will also be a person by the door for security.
“We’re going to be checking to make sure those protocols are followed,” Gallard said.
These are the latest development in the kidnapping case that has produced many questions but few answers.
At a news conference last Wednesday, Philadelphia Police Captain John Darby released detailed descriptions of the male and female suspects police are searching for, and described the block-by-block search underway for both of them.
The woman being sought is the same woman seen in surveillance video leaving Bryant Elementary School with the child on Monday.
She has been described as a dark-skinned black woman in her late 20s, standing 5′ 5″ to 5′ 8″ tall, with a thin build and possibly pregnant. Police now say she told the child her name was “Rashida.”
Investigators say after that woman left the school she walked the child several blocks to a home in West Philadelphia, where the two were joined by a man.
That man is described as a light-skinned, possibly white, man in his mid-thirties with short brown hair. The girl told police he was wearing sweat pants and a blue long-sleeved t-shirt.
Police say he joined the woman in restraining the girl at the residence. Earlier reports said the girl was blindfolded by her captors.
Darby said police are now conducting an intensive manhunt in a several-block area surrounding Bryant Elementary School. He said uniformed officers are being joined by cadets from the Philadelphia Police Academy in canvassing the area, going door-to-door and handing out flyers with descriptions of the suspects.
“We are asking every resident to take another look,” Darby said.
The targeted area is bounded by Spruce Street and Christian Street on the north and south, and 50th Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway on the east and west.
Action News has also learned that police believe a second woman became involved in the case when she rescued the girl from that home in West Philadelphia and dropped her off at a playground in Upper Darby, where she was eventually found.
No further information about that second woman has been released.
Last week’s news conference came after a dramatic series of developments that began when the girl first went missing Monday morning after her mother dropped her off at Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia. That was at 8:45 a.m.
Police say minutes later, a woman dressed in Muslim garb, which only showed her eyes, signed in with the name “Tiffany.”
The woman was told to go to the school’s office, but police say she went to the girl’s classroom instead – telling the substitute teacher on duty she was the girl’s mother and that was taking her to breakfast.
When the substitute teacher challenged her, police say the woman got indignant, saying, “I signed what I was supposed to sign, I’ve got other appointments and I do not need to put up with your nonsense.”
That woman was seen on surveillance video walking with the girl from her classroom at about 8:50 a.m.
Investigators said that this did not appear to be a random act, but rather the girl was targeted, noting that the woman knew where to go and asked for the girl by name.
Authorities say when someone from the girl’s daycare arrived to pick her up at 3:00 p.m., they finally realized something was wrong. An Amber Alert was then issued for the girl on Monday evening.
She was found by a passerby named Nelson Mandela Myers at 4:40 a.m. Tuesday at a playground in Upper Darby, Delaware County – 1.5 miles away from Bryant Elementary School.
She was crying, wet, and wearing only a t-shirt.
Upper Darby police say Myers was on his way to work when he heard the girl’s cries Tuesday morning and found her under a playground sliding board near 69th Street and Marshall Road, cold and upset.
Last week, Mayor Michael Nutter announced Myers would receive the $10,000 reward that was being offered for information leading to the girl’s return.
Once found, the girl was taken to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she was evaluated, reunited with her mother, and released.
The child has had some preliminary interviews after being released from the hospital.
After being released from the hospital, the girl was carried home in her mother’s arms and surrounded by detectives.
“[I’m] very relieved,” the mother said as she walked inside the home with her daughter.
Meantime, the non-teaching assistant, or NTA, has been removed from the security desk where the female suspect signed in. The NTA has been placed in a different position.
The district will also not assign classes to the substitute teacher from the child’s classroom pending the outcome of the investigation.
The district says school personnel are required to go through annual safety training, but the teachers’ union questions whether the substitute had proper instruction.
“We are not going to let any of our members be railroaded,” said teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan. “I can’t imagine that the substitute teacher knew the protocol for early dismissal from school. I find that hard to believe.”