Craig N. Ross Jr. Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping 9-Year-Old Girl from N.Y. Park, Faces 47 Years-to-Life in Prison

The young girl went missing during a camping trip with her family in Moreau State Park on Sept. 30, 2023

<p>Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP</p> Craig N. Ross Jr.

Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP

Craig N. Ross Jr.

A man accused of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl on a family camping trip last year faces 47 years to life in prison after pleading guilty.

Craig Nelson Ross Jr. pled guilty to first-degree kidnapping and predatory sexual assault against a child during a court appearance on Wednesday, according to WRGB.

The young girl was abducted while she rode her bike in Moreau Lake State Park on Sept. 30, 2023. Less than two days later, she was found in a cabinet inside a camper parked at Ross Jr.'s mother's home.

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Investigators discovered their location after positively identifying fingerprints on a ransom note that was allegedly left in a mailbox belonging to the young girl's family. His fingerprints were linked to a DWI case from 1999 in Saratoga, N.Y.

The Times Union reported that Ross Jr. "was quiet and expressionless as he admitted to the charges." Per the outlet, he faces 25 years to life for first-degree kidnapping and 22 years to life for predatory sexual assault against a child (a possible 47-year combined sentence).

His criminal trial would have begun on April 8 if he had rejected his plea deal. If the case would have gone to trial, the 9-year-old girl could have also been forced to testify. His sentencing is scheduled for April 17, and he remains in the Saratoga County Jail without bail.

<p>Saratoga County Jail</p> Craig N. Ross Jr.

Saratoga County Jail

Craig N. Ross Jr.

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According to WTEN, his admission to guilt follows a Feb. 1 court appearance in which Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Buckley said that they had "over 2,000 photos, hundreds of body camera and surveillance videos, emails, radio transmissions, and witnesses" to use against him.

After the young girl was returned to her family, they shared a statement with PEOPLE that thanked the "FBI, the New York State police, all of the agencies that were mobilized, all of the families, friends, community, neighbors and hundreds of volunteers."

"We are thrilled that she is home, and we understand that the outcome is not what every family gets," the statement read.

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Apart from his 1999 DWI case that resulted in a fine and a suspended driver's license for 90 days, Ross Jr. was also arrested in April 2017 following a physical domestic dispute. A spokesperson for New York State Police previously told PEOPLE that he "reportedly applied pressure on the throat of the victim during the altercation."

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