How a Hospital Assistant in Tennessee Rescued 4-Year-Old Girl Who Was Abducted in Florida
The multi-state search for 4-year-old Rebecca Lewis, the Florida girl allegedly abducted from her bed by a family friend last week, ended when a Tennessee hospital worker walked right past Rebecca and her alleged captor.
That was Kaytlin Brown, a clinical assistant at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Brown is opening up to PEOPLE about the moment she realized what was happening.
“I remember thinking ‘She’s so cute,’ ” says Brown, 23. “And then it hit me: ‘That’s that little girl.’ ”
She says she saw Rebecca and her alleged abductor, West Hogs, when she was walking down a hallway at the hospital on Oct. 10.
Brown had seen Rebecca’s photo on her Facebook moments before, while she was taking her lunch break, as the news of the disappearance spread.
Brown, a Memphis native, says she walked by the pair one more time before running to father, Carey McIllwain, who is a board runner at the hospital.
“I said, ‘This little girl and this man are in the hospital right now,’ ” Brown recalls. “And he went, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
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‘The Most Overwhelming Week of My Life’
Brown says she and her father managed to find Rebecca and Hogs, 31, in the hallway again. When they walked by this time, Brown focused on Rebecca while her father focused on Hogs.
Hogs was holding Rebecca’s hand and keeping his head down, Brown says — hiding his face. When they passed each other, McIllwain asked Hogs, “How you doin’?” Hogs lifted his head and replied back.
Brown says she then had no doubt who he was and that Rebecca was wearing the same outfit pictured in an AMBER Alert poster.
She and her father went to security and called authorities, and then Memphis police (who separately confirmed Brown’s involvement to PEOPLE) arrested Hogs as he and Rebecca were exiting the hospital’s parking garage.
Brown thinks Hogs became suspicious when he saw her a second time.
“Rebecca didn’t seem too fazed. I don’t know if she really knew what was going on,” Brown says, adding, “That makes me even happier that she was so unfazed, because it’s such a terrible memory to [live with].”
Since reporting Hogs, Brown has become notable in her local community, though she could do without all the attention.
“This has been the most overwhelming week of my life,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m a fairly shy person, and it makes me really sick to my stomach — I’m so not used to it.”
“I appreciate everything everyone has said, but I don’t feel like [a hero],” she says. “I feel like I did a human thing, and I hope anyone else would have done the same thing in my situation.”
Rebecca was reported missing from her Lakeland, Florida, bed on Oct. 8, according to a news release from the Polk County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office.
Hours later, Rebecca was spotted on CCTV footage with Hogs at a gas station in Forsyth, Georgia, police said. Authorities allege Hogs abducted Rebecca and took her to a McDonald’s before driving north.
The pair were spotted again the next day by park rangers in Cove Lake State Park in Campbell County, Tennessee. By that time, an AMBER Alert had been issued in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Authorities believed Rebecca to be in extreme danger and immediately contacted her family when she was recovered. On Oct. 11, she was reunited with her parents and flown back to Florida.
“Thank you for bringing me home,” she said a news conference with her family. “Bye bye! I’m going home!”
Rebecca’s parents, Luther Lewis and Melissa Schell, reportedly told police that they had not seen Hogs in two years and alleged he suddenly showed up at their home on Oct. 7, according to NBC.
They told reporters at a news conference that Hogs grew up with Lewis and Schell and was considered part of their family.
However, they said, Hog’s temperament changed after he underwent a brain surgery several years ago.
Hogs was extradited to Florida from Tennessee on Oct. 13, South County, Florida, jail officials tell PEOPLE. He is charged with burglary and kidnapping and is held on $100,000 bond.
It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney or entered a plea to his charges.