Investigators credit quick-thinking hospital employee in rescue of kidnapped 4-year-old girl

A 4-year-old Florida girl who was reported missing Saturday was found Monday at a Memphis hospital, WHBQ-TV reported.

Rebecca Lewis, 4, was found at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis, Polk County deputies confirmed.

The Tennesee Bureau of Investigation confirmed that the child was found safe and that police had also detained Rebecca's accused kidnapper, West Wild Hogs.

"(It's) like the world has been lifted of our shoulders. We are going to get her and bring her back," Rebecca's father said late Monday.

An employee at the hospital spotted Rebecca in a car outside the hospital with Hogs and recognized them from TV coverage of her disappearance, deputies said.

By the time Rebecca was found, Amber Alerts had been activated in five states.

The girl is expected to be reunited with her family on Tuesday.

"I just want to go get my daughter and bring her home to her brothers and sisters," Rebecca's mother, Melissa Schell, said. "(I'm) just glad she's safe and we thank everybody that has helped us along the way -- media, Facebook, everybody."

Hogs was taken into custody at the scene, authorities said.

"It goes into the importance of Amber Alerts and looking at details and looking at photos and calling local law enforcement that they are in," a Tennessee police officer said.

Rebecca and Hogs, 31, were spotted by a Tennessee park ranger Sunday night after an Amber Alert was issued in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky.

According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the kidnapped girl should have been rescued as soon as the two were seen, but a Tennessee ranger didn't immediately recognize the pair.

The ranger who saw the pair didn't realize who they were because Tennessee refused to issue an Amber Alert for Rebecca when Florida law enforcement asked them to. Tennessee officials said there was no evidence that Hogs and Rebecca were in Tennessee.

Judd was visibly angry at a press conference on Monday.

"The state of Tennessee chose not to do an Amber Alert when we asked them to," Judd said. "Here's a news flash, Tennessee: He was there."

The ranger spotted the stolen gray 2012 Nissan Versa Hogs that was driving between 10 and 11 p.m. Sunday at Cove Lake State Park and asked the man what he was doing.

Hogs told the ranger that he was waiting for Rebecca's mother to pick her up, "which was obviously a lie," Judd said.

The ranger told Hogs that the park was closed and that he needed to leave, but he saw a bulletin on the missing girl and realized that he'd let the alleged kidnapper escape with Lewis.

Tennessee issued an Amber Alert Sunday.

Hogs was a former family friend who lived with Lewis and her family two years ago, Judd said.

They had no contact with him since he was kicked out of the family's home after pulling a gun on them, Judd added.

"It's not like he's taken off with a neighbor kid that he's been like an uncle to," Judd said.

Investigators still do not know what Hogs' intentions were with the girl, but Judd said "she is certainly in immediate danger."

Rebecca and Hogs were also sighted at a gas station in Forsyth, Georgia, along Interstate 75 several hours after she was reported missing Saturday.

Rebecca, who was seen in surveillance footage with Hogs, appeared to be in good health. She was wearing a light-colored T-shirt and blue jeans.

Deputies said they began their search for Rebecca Saturday morning after her 16-year-old sister noticed that she was missing from her bedroom in the Lazy Dazy Retreat, a mobile home park on U.S. Highway 98 North in Lakeland, Florida.

Rebecca's parents spent more than an hour searching for her before calling deputies, investigators said.

Deputies said Hogs was driving a stolen gray 2012 Nissan Versa with Alabama handicapped license plate 4JL26. He is bipolar, suffers from depression and does not have a criminal history, WTSP reported.

Judd urged Hogs to let Rebecca go and warned him against harming her.

"Don't you hurt that baby. You keep that baby safe," he said, pointing into the cameras. "We'll worry about catching you later, but we want that child back right now."

Heartland Crime Stoppers was offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to Rebecca's recovery, according to WTSP.

Monday, October 10th - 10:00 am update:


UPDATE4-year-old Rebecca Lewis and 31-year-old “West Hogs” (his legal name) were spotted in Forsythe Georgia at a gas...

Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, October 8, 2016

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