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Nov 6, 2014 10:26 AM

Police: Abducted woman's fight helped save life

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) An abducted woman's fighting spirit likely helped keep her alive until law enforcement agents rescued her and arrested her alleged captor, Philadelphia's police commissioner said Thursday.

"My understanding is, even after she was in the car and bound, she continued to struggle with this guy," Charles Ramsey told ABC News, hours after police reunited Carlesha Freeland-Gaither with her family at a Maryland hospital.

"She's got a lot of fight in her," he said.

Freeland-Gaither, 22, was resting at home in Philadelphia on Thursday and not yet ready to talk publicly about her three-day ordeal. She had some injuries but was generally doing OK, police said. Detectives were giving her time to settle down before completing interviews.

Word of her safe return elated the neighborhood.

"As a mother, you don't ever want to be without your child no matter what age," said Vada Fisher, 27, who lives on the same street as Freeland-Gaither's mother. "I'm glad she's alive and safe."

A cousin, Cinquetta Barfield, said Freeland-Gaither's family will speak to media Thursday evening. Barfield said they had not slept since she disappeared Sunday night.

Law enforcement agents spotted Freeland-Gaither and suspect Delvin Barnes on Wednesday in a car with a broken-out back window in Jessup, Maryland. They arrested Barnes without incident after he stepped out of the car.

Barnes, 37, was being held Thursday at the jail in suburban Baltimore County, said Scott Shellenberger, the state's attorney for the county.

He is scheduled to have a hearing in suburban Baltimore later Thursday on a charge of being a fugitive from justice in Virginia, according to Shellenberger and online court records. Authorities there said he is wanted in connection with attempted capital murder, assault and malicious injury with acid, explosives or fire.

Barnes couldn't be reached for comment while in custody.

The Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's office said Thursday morning no charges have been filed in the abduction case.

Keisha Gaither, who a day earlier had sobbed as she pleaded for the safe return of her kidnapped daughter, smiled as she stood before the microphone Wednesday night at a news conference in Philadelphia.

"I'm taking my baby home. Thank you. Thank you so much," she said as authorities announced the nursing assistant's rescue and the arrest of the suspect.

Authorities said there was no indication Freeland-Gaither and the man, who used to live in Philadelphia, knew each other.

"No one else is in danger right now because we got a very dangerous predator off the streets," Ramsey said.

Authorities credited hard work by law enforcement agents in finding Freeland-Gaither. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents had received information from Richmond, Virginia, to be on the lookout for a vehicle that might have been involved in the abduction, said Tim Jones, resident agent in charge with the ATF in Lanham, Maryland.

ATF agents found the vehicle, which had its rear window kicked out, late Wednesday afternoon on a road in Jessup, he said. A witness to Freeland-Gaither's abduction Sunday night had said she kicked out some of the car's windows before the car sped off.

Law enforcement officers saw Barnes and Freeland-Gaither in the car and surrounded it, Jones said.

Barnes climbed from the back seat to the front seat, and that was when agents drove their cars around to block his vehicle in, Jones said. Agents then freed Freeland-Gaither, and she was taken to a hospital, Jones said.

Gaither thanked police and the community for their support. She said she had talked to her daughter by phone and her daughter was distraught.

"She was very upset. She was crying. She just was asking for me, to tell me she loved me, she missed me, to come get her," she said.

Freeland-Gaither had been last seen on surveillance video being grabbed by a man and pulled toward a car Sunday night as she struggled to get away in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood.

Police and federal authorities had released a stream of images over the past two days from surveillance cameras in Maryland and from a Philadelphia supermarket hours before the abduction.

Freeland-Gaither graduated from high school in Maryland and lived with her grandfather in Philadelphia until a couple of months ago, when she moved in with her boyfriend.

Her grandmother, Ana Mulero, said she has worked with cancer patients and has been pursuing a career in nursing.


Associated Press writers Natalie Pompilio and Ron Todt in Philadelphia and Kasey Jones and Juliet Linderman in Baltimore contributed to this report.


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