Man who kidnapped girl, 9, from Moreau park gets 47 years to life in prison

Man who kidnapped girl, 9, from Moreau park gets 47 years to life in prison

The man who kidnapped a 9-year-old girl from Moreau Lake State Park last September, sparking a frantic two-day search, was sentenced on Wednesday to 47 years to life in prison.

The man who kidnapped a 9-year-old girl from Moreau Lake State Park last September, sparking a frantic two-day search, was sentenced on Wednesday to 47 years to life in prison.

Craig Ross Jr., 47, had pleaded guilty in Saratoga County Court in February to kidnapping and another charge against him. Ross abducted the girl from the park on Sept. 30. The girl was found with Ross in a camper behind a trailer home in the town of Milton.

Family members testified how a fun last camping weekend turned into “47 years of pure hell and torment.”

The father recalled getting a phone call from his brother and sister-in-law that his daughter was missing in the woods. Hundreds of people joined in the search, scaling overgrown cliffsides in pitch darkness, resulting in bloodied feet and broken hands as the hours ticked by. It was nothing compared to what is daughter was going through.

He looked at Ross directly.

“What kind of person wakes up in the morning and decides they’re going to take a kid? You. Craig Ross. You did that,” he said.

He snapped at Ross to look at him.

“People like you don’t have a place in this world. You’re not even worthy of the cage that you’re going to rot in for the next 47 years,” he said. 

Mother: Daughter ‘everything good in this world’

Her mother told the court that there will never be a sentence sufficient for what Ross did.

“I don’t understand why people like you do the things that you do. You don’t deserve forgiveness,” she said.

Her daughter loved singing, snakes and wildlife, except for ladybugs, and Pokemon. She is kind and never afraid to apologize. Even after what Ross had done, she was still concerned about his cat.

“She is everything that you are lacking. She is everything that is good in this world and you are nothing,” she said. “She will make this world a better place and she already has because she wasn’t afraid to tell her story, and now you are no longer to be part of society.”

The girl wanted to be in court, but a statement was read on her behalf. The statement called Ross a “terrible person” and “idiot.” She wrote that their lives will be going in different directions.

“Someone will always be watching you like you were always watching me,” she said.

Despite what has happened, she is not going to let it affect her.

“I was imprisoned for 2 ½ days and now you will be imprisoned for 47 years,” she said.

She thought he was nice, but he was the “devil in disguise.”

The girl said she was feeling depressed when she was held hostage and now she is living her normal life.

She concluded in her letter that she wants to be a therapist and write books. She will have a family of her own. And she will not be thinking of Ross, but said she will be haunting his thoughts.

“You will never forget me. You will never be able to affect anyone again,” she wrote, signing her letter “with no fear.”

New details of crime

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Buckley shared some new details of the crime. Ross drove to Moreau Lake State Park and then up to Great Escape before heading back to Moreau to look for a victim. He finally saw the girl and lured her to his truck on the pretext that he needed help with his vehicle.

“When she did, she got into his truck and drove away,” Buckley said.

Ross took back roads to avoid being detected back to his mobile home on Barrett Road.

The break in the case came when Ross decided to craft a ransom plan to profit from his crime and had the girl write a note, according to Buckley. An observant State Police investigator spotted the truck that had been driving around the residence of the girl and saw him put the note in the mailbox. The investigator put on gloves, retrieved the note, which had Ross’s fingerprints on it.

On Monday, the State Police Special Operations Response Team responded to his camper and within one minute of entry, got the girl out safely.

“The defendant had no idea this massive group of professionals were working this case and working to bring him to justice,” she said.

The girl immediately began talking about what happened, which provided crucial information for the case. And police had the element of surprise, which allowed them to amass a large amount of evidence.

In Ross’ pre-sentence report, he told probation officers that he is embarrassed and said he was a victim of all the things that have happened to him in his life. He told probation officers that he had thought of what he would do as a parent if someone had taken his child.

“He wanted to profit off another parent’s heartbreak for his own financial gain,” Buckley said. “He was willing to exploit parents love for this child for his own twisted crime.”

Buckley said Ross is extremely dangerous and the community needs to be protected from him.

“This defendant has deserved every second, every minute, every hour, every day of his 47-years-to-life sentence,” she said.

Maximum sentence imposed

When asked if he wanted to speak, Ross declined, having to repeat himself saying “no” because he was too hard to hear.

Judge Jim Murphy mentioned the frantic police search and relief when the girl was found.

“I think everyone in this room remembers where they were when they heard the news that they found her alive,” he said.

Murphy then picked up on the comments Ross told probation officers claiming that he was fired from work and was driving around the park, when the idea of kidnapping the girl to get ransom money popped into his head. The judge called that story “absurd, insulting to our intelligence and simply not worth of belief.”

If that was the case, Murphy said it shows an impulsive nature and a “complete lack of morality.”

Ross also didn’t want to talk about the case because it was “embarrassing,” Murphy said. 

He imposed the maximum sentence.

Afterward, District Attorney Karen Heggen said she was glad that defendant pleaded guilty.

“He admitted he did it and those who would have been called upon to testify were spared from having to relive that trauma,” she said. 

Heggen credited the police work of everyone in this case – many of whom were in court for the sentencing.

State Police Maj. Dennis Schager said the girl was definitely a survivor and strong and mature individual – more mature than she needs to be at this stage of her life.

He also credited the work of his team that brought together the “overwhelmingly evidence that helped put this monster away.”

NewsChannel 13 will not be reporting on all of the charges filed against Craig Ross Jr. — out of respect for the privacy of the victim and her family.