Missing 6-year-old NC girl found chained to tree, man in custody

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. – 6-year-old Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro, who was abducted from her home in the Royal Palms community off Carolina Beach Road Wednesday night, has been found alive.

Officials said that Lopez-Castro was found Thursday morning about two miles from where she was taken. Officials said she is doing well.Douglas Edwards, 46, of Wilmington is in custody. Edwards, who was picked up in New Hanover County Thursday morning, has been charged with first-degree kidnapping.

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While authorities would not release any more public information on Edwards outside of a courtroom, he is listed on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. According to public records, Edwards was convicted in 1996 of first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties with a minor. The victim was six-years-old at the time.

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Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro found chained to tree in NC
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Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro found chained to tree in NC
Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro, 6, was last seen at 5140 Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington, N.C. heading... https://t.co/Y06T1o2WTx
NC #Amber Alert just issued in Wilmington for 6-year-old Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro. #WCCB
AMBER ALERT: The Wilmington PD is searching for a missing child: Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro. https://t.co/d2fkhUqQtH
AMBER ALERT: The Wilmington PD is searching for a missing child: Stefanny Lenneth Lopez-Castro.

Sheriff McMahon said that Edwards was under surveillance all night long and officials took him into custody this morning. He did not give an exact location. McMahon says the community stepped forward to help with leads.

"I have a granddaughter at that age," McMahon said, getting emotional at the news conference. "It's personal when this is in our community and this stuff doesn't normally happen, so this is very personal and it should be to everybody."

A friend of the family said Lopez-Castro was taken to the hospital for treatment.

A spokesperson for New Hanover Regional Medical Center sent along the following statement from Castro's family.

We would like to first and foremost thank God, the police department, the sheriff's office and all the communities that went out to search for her in the rain and on their own time. Thank you to our neighbors and friends and St. Mary's Church who were praying for her and any others who were praying for her.

The family asked for privacy while they rejoice in Castro's return.

Earlier this morning, authorities were searching for the missing girl along River Road. A witness involved in the rescue said the girl was found chained to a tree in a wooded area.

The man said he was flagged down on River Road while driving to work. Authorities asked if he had any bolt cutters, but he didn't have any. The witness gave authorities a battery-operated saw and they went into the woods to cut the girl free.

The man said he walked back and saw Lopez-Castro lying on her back. He said she did not say a word and seemed very calm.

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