Investigators: Ransom note led police to suspect in Charlotte Sena’s disappearance

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A ransom note was the big clue in helping to find Charlotte Sena, 9, investigators said.

The family received a note, which led police to the suspect, who lives on Barrett Road in Milton.

Cheers and jubilation broke out at Moreau Lake State Park on Monday evening, where Charlotte had last been seen.

A vigil that was planned at the Mount Zion Church morphed into prayers of thanks.

About 400 people took part in the search Monday, up from more than 100 the day before, State Police said. The searchers included state and local police, forest rangers, local volunteer firefighters, and some private search and rescue groups, officials said. Authorities also requested help from the FBI.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she was “Extremely grateful to @nyspolice, @NYStateParks police, and all of our partners who worked tirelessly to locate Charlotte and ensure she could return home safely to her family.”

The search expanded over 46 linear miles (74 linear kilometers) by Monday, with much of the area heavily wooded.

Troopers set up several checkpoints on the winding, rural roads around the park. They stopped drivers and asked if they knew the family, had seen the girl’s photo, or had any other information that could help the search. They also had some drivers open their trunks.

The park remained closed because of the search, and officials asked members of the public who showed up hoping to help to stay away and leave the search to professionals. Federal authorities also issued a temporary flight restriction over the park for the safety of law enforcement air operations.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Monday evening that the case started to break around 4:20 a.m., when police saw a car pull up and leave something in a mailbox at Charlotte’s home. A fingerprint on that note led police to a home in Milton, where the suspect’s mother lived.

The suspect, Craig Nelson Ross Jr., 47, was found behind the home in a trailer. Charlotte was also found there.

Hochul said Monday evening Ross had not been charged yet, but charges were expected soon.

NewsChannel 13 will bring you updates on and our later newscasts.