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Sex offender faces more charges after kidnapping NC girl, search efforts cancelled after six-year-old found tied in a tree

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Fourth Estate Staff

New Hanover County, NC, United States (4E) – A sex offender is charged with kidnapping a six-year-old girl, identified as Steffany Lenneth Lopez-Castro, in New Hanover County, North Carolina who went missing for 18 hours.

She was found alone in a heavily wooded area off River Road, which was around two miles from where she lived.

The sex offender, identified as 46-year-old Douglas Nelson Edwards of Wilmington, was arrested earlier before the child was found. He is charged with kidnapping and two counts of Indecent Liberties with a Child.

The child was reportedly playing with a younger sibling outside her home at around 5 P.M. on Wednesday. A man reportedly snatched her and her sister ran in to tell their mother. That was when they called the police officials, said Lt. Jerry Brewer of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. The Amber Alert was issued five hours later.

Jason Mehalko and Peter Marchese were reportedly riding past the location where the child was found. The child was chained to the tree and officials flagged down Marchese and Mehalko to ask for bolt cutters. Mehalko then offered his sawzall , which was capable of cutting through steel.

Mehalko said of the girl, “She was perfectly calm. She was not crying. She looked at me, she looked at my partner, she looked at the dog and she looked up at the sky.”

Edwards was required to register as a sex offender for at least 10 years after being convicted in 1996 for first degree sex offense and indecent liberties with a minor. He served 16 years in prison. Since registering as a sex offender, there have been no complaints against him until the abduction of the six-year-old. Edwards was released from prison last April 30 after being convicted last October for selling drugs in New Hanover County. He was on parole after the release.

Edwards is set to appear in court this Friday.

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