Thomas Dewald claimed he was searching the neighborhood for children living in "deplorable conditions"

By Christine Pelisek
May 01, 2019 03:25 PM
Thomas Dewald
Franklin County Jail/AP/Shutterstock

A Pennsylvania man is behind bars after he allegedly crept into a home, kidnapped a 4-year-old girl from her second-floor bedroom, bound her hands, wrists and ankles with tape and then stuffed her into a wooden trunk at his grandparents’ house.

Thomas Dewald, 20, allegedly told police that he had searched the neighborhood for children playing in their yards unsupervised and living in “deplorable conditions,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE.

Dewald was charged April 30 with multiple felony counts including kidnapping, burglary, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint and criminal trespass.

Police say the girl was somehow able to escape just hours after she was abducted and was found along a roadway close to Dewald’s grandparent’s home and about two and a half miles from her Washington Township home.

“She escaped but we don’t know how and all the circumstances with it yet,” Pennsylvania State Trooper Megan Frazer tells PEOPLE. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”

The case came to light in the early-morning hours of April 25 when the girl’s father called police to report her missing. He told police he put his daughter to bed the night before around 7:30 p.m. He said he awoke around 3 a.m. and noticed that the door to her bedroom was cracked open and the front door was ajar.

The man said he searched the home before he called police. Police immediately began searching the area for the missing little girl who was eventually located at 10 am that morning.

Police, conducting a search of the surrounding neighborhoods, spoke to Dewald’s grandmother on April 29. The woman told police that she had gone into her grandson’s room to see if he made his bed when she “heard what sounded like a baby crying.”

“The female related the crying seemed to come from the wall with the air conditioning unit, in his bedroom,” the complaint states.

She told police she didn’t know where the crying was coming from and had wanted to talk to Dewald about it but he had already left for work.

Police searched the home and discovered a large wooden chest directly under the air conditioning unit in the bedroom.

“Several large strips of long blonde hair (similar to the hair on the [victim]) was located inside the wooden chest in the bedroom,” the complaint states.

Police also found several large strips of black tape which contained shoe print impressions as well as dirt, grass and long blond hair.

Dewald came home during the search and allegedly admitted that he kidnapped the girl. He also allegedly admitted that he entered the child’s home through an unlocked front door and was there for about an hour before he kidnapped her.

He told police that his plan was to take the girl’s older brother but he “would have been too heavy to take,” the complaint reads.

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Dewald said he took the child to his residence where he bound her with tape and placed her in the wooden chest in his bedroom, informing her that he would come back at noon, the complaint states.

He allegedly told police he returned later and the girl was gone.

Dewald is being held without bail in Franklin County Jail.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 14. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

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