Man accused of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from New York park is charged with rape

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (AP) — A man accused of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from a state park in upstate New York raped the child during the two days she was held hostage before her rescue, prosecutors said Friday.

Craig N. Ross Jr. was initially charged only with first-degree kidnapping in the abduction of the girl on Sept. 30 from Moreau Lake State Park, located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Albany.

A massive search in the rural area ended two days later when state police troopers and FBI SWAT team stormed a camper Ross was staying in. Rescuers found the girl in a cabinet.

The break in the case had come after officers stationed at the girl’s home saw someone drop a ransom note in the family's mailbox before dawn. State police matched fingerprints on the note to Ross, who was in a database because of a 1999 drunken driving case.

An indictment made public Friday kept the kidnapping charge and added four counts of predatory sexual assault against a child, along with charges of sexual abuse, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Ross pleaded not guilty in Saratoga County Court.

A phone message seeking comment was made to his lawyer.

District Attorney Karen Heggen told reporters afterward that the defendant committed a heinous offense against a young victim.

“We will hold him accountable and responsible,” she said to WNYT-TV.

The girl had been riding her bike around a campsite loop in the park with other children on a Saturday evening when she decided to ride around one more time by herself. Her parents became alarmed when she failed to return after about 15 minutes.

An Amber Alert was issued the next morning and more than 100 police, forest rangers and civilians took part in a search that employed drones, bloodhounds and an airboat. Troopers set up checkpoints on the winding, rural roads around the park.

Ross has been in jail without bail since his arrest.