Officer ‘amazed’ her 1999 arrest of suspect led to young girl

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The man accused of kidnapping Charlotte Sena, 9, was arrested for a DWI in 1999.

The fingerprint from that arrest helped track down Craig Nelson Ross and ultimately led to Charlotte being found safe.

That arrest was made by Saratoga Springs Police Officer Kristen VanWert.

“Oh, it’s wonderful. I mean, look at what just something simple from 24 years ago led to now,” VanWert said.

She has been serving in the Saratoga Springs Police Department for 32 years. She is a familiar face at local schools, where she stands by at arrival and dismissal.

She – like many others – was following the search for 9-year-old Charlotte Sena.

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A big break came when police say the kidnapping suspect left a fingerprint with the ransom note. That print came back for the 1999 DWI arrest of Craig Ross, which led them to his family property and the little girl in a cabinet in a camper there.

VanWert found out it was her arrest when she came to work.

“The lieutenant was telling me, he goes, do you know that arrest was yours? And I said really? I had no clue it was mine,” said VanWert. “I was very excited.”

“It was a great sense of pride to have some tiny connection to that horrible tragedy that was averted by some really, really good police work,” said Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Jim Montagnino.

According to the arrest and case reports, VanWert pulled Ross over in 1999 after seeing him cross a double solid line and pass another car on Ballston Avenue.

Police say he stumbled and staggered, and that he had a .21% B.A.C.

The report stated: “Officer advised subject that she wished him to perform several field sobriety tests at which he advised that there was no need for him to do any as he was drunk and knows he won’t pass any.”

Years later, that arrest and fingerprint would play a pivotal role in reuniting a family.

“Certainly 24 years ago, Officer VanWert would have no inkling that the DWI arrest she’s making today will save a 9-year-old’s life a quarter of a century from now,” said Montagnino.

“I am so grateful that she was found safely, and she was returned home to her family,” said VanWert, with a smile. “What a wonderful outcome.”