NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Thursday marks the second day of trial for Douglas Edwards accused of kidnapping a 6-year-old in New Hanover County exactly one year ago today.
Deputies say on September 14, 2016, Douglas Edwards grabbed the child from the driveway of her home near Monkey Junction, put her on his moped, then drove off with her.
On the first day, the child’s mother testified along with two deputies and a man who said he saw Edwards that day. Marty Rivenbark testified that he was by Walmart when he noticed a moped with a girl frolicking like she was bout to fall off, wrestling with the driver and he knew something was wrong.
The jury was not immediately brought in Thursday morning.
First, the defense and prosecutors argued case law over certain statements made by Edwards to deputy Lisa Hudson with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office on September 15, 2016 after he was arrested. The judge decided not to let the defense cross examine Hudson about the statements.
After the jury returned, Lisa Hudson was on the stand to continue her testimony from yesterday. Hudson is a detective with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Hudson took Edwards home Sept. 14, 2016 after she interviewed him at the Sheriff’s Office that night.
When cross examined, Hudson told the defense her role was to stay with Edwards on Sept. 14, 2016. She said there were a lot of events that happened that night that she was not aware of because she was with Edwards.
Todd Radabaugh with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission took the stand next. Radabaugh said he had a sergeant and two officers involved in the search that night. He said the area they were searching was heavily wooded at the time.
The jury saw drone video of the wooded area that was searched off River Road for the child. Radabaugh said this kind of environment could be fatal to a 6-year-old with the types of bugs and animals that are out there.
Radabaugh said he is not aware of any deadly bear attacks or exposure to the elements in that area when cross examined by defense.
Wesley Baxley with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office testified next. Baxley was on K-9 patrol in September 2016. Baxley did not find the girl.
Clay Benton with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office took the stand next. He also searched for the girl on the night of September 14.
Ken Nance, Director of transportation for New Hanover Co. Schools took the stand next. He said all buses have GPS and videos.
Nance said he reviewed video from bus 409 on morning of Sept. 15 because a bus driver said she thought she saw something in regards to the missing child. Nance said in the video, you can see a moped on the side of the road.
Crystal McGirt took the stand. McGirt is a bus driver for New Hanover County Schools who said she saw Edwards and the child the day she went missing. WWAY interviewed McGirt the week after it all happened.
McGirt said she was driving for an after school program around 4:15 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2016. On her route, McGirt said she drives on River Road. McGirt said she was approaching a traffic circle, when she saw a moped. She said the driver looked like he was alone.
Then, McGirt said it started raining and the moped pulled over. She said she could see a small person in front of that driver. Then, she said she saw the driver put a jacket around the person.
McGirt said she saw the driver put a jacket around the small person. She said she did not think anything of it. She said she saw an alert about a missing girl on social media around 7:30 p.m.
McGirt said she got to work and asked her supervisor if the girl had been found. McGirt told her supervisor about the moped. Then, she said she called 911. McGirt met up with deputies at the command center and told them about the bus video.
The jury got to see a screen shot from the video. In the video, you can see the moped outside of the bus and the time stamp said 9-14-16 at 16:59 or 4:59 p.m.
McGirt said she took deputies to the spot where the moped was seen on the bus camera. McGirt said it rained off and on the night of Sept. 14, 2016.
Then, Sgt. Jeffrey Pope with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office just took the stand. Pope kept a surveillance on Edwards the night of the Sept. 14. He said at 1:00 a.m. Edwards peeked out of the window. Pope was there from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. the next day. That was all Pope saw.
This afternoon, Lt. Scott Croom with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s office was called to the stand to speak about the day he and Detective Sean Dixon, a deputy at the time, teamed up to find the child. Croom was responsible for deploying K9 Bane, the dog who help lead them to the missing child. Dixon was Bane’s handler.
At the time, the child was last seen in a pink top, pink bottoms, and black flip flops. Croom and Dixon were on a mission to find her in a timely manner due to the fact she was missing overnight. Missing in the woods where Croom has personally seen foxes, coyotes, alligators and all sorts of other animals.
With help from Bane the two men were able to locate the missing child. Croom and Dixon split up in search of the girl but remained close. Croom found a pink ball of something and when he looked around he found the child then yelled for Dixon and Bane. At this point, Croom saw the girl chained to a tree where she, covered in mosquitoes, asked him, “are you here to help me and take me to my momma?”
Lt. Croom spoke on the picture of the chain being shown to the courtroom, saying it was so tight around her neck it left marks. Croom and Dixon both cried tears of joy, happy the child was alive. Without anything to cut the chain with, Croom ran up to the road and stopped a man who had a sawzall. Dixon and another deputy used the sawzall to free the girl from the tree.
At this point, Detective Dixon is called to the stand where he described the process of finding articles of the girl’s items to help Bane locate her off of River Road thanks to tips from McGirt. Dixon gave Bane the girl’s pillowcase which introduced the dog to her scent. Dixon said the dog immediately starting showing signs he was picking up her scent in the woods off River Road, which gave Dixon reason to believe the girl was indeed in the woods.
The courtroom is now shown photos of the scene as Dixon recalls the moment Bane found the girl. Her family becomes emotional at the sights and leaves the room for a short time.
Master Firefighter Lyndell Nixon and New Hanover Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Sorg follow on the stand. Nixon recalls being called to help, when he arrives to the scene he sees the girl and helps cut the padlocks from the chain. Nixon says the chain was wrapped twice around the child’s neck. Detective Sorg recalls surveillance of the Edwards home and Sorg following him once Edwards left. The detective followed Edwards until 11 a.m. on September 15, 2016. Away from the scene the girl was found, Detective Sorg arrested Edwards.
Following cross-examination, the DA and Defense approach the bench. Shortly after the judge called for the jury to go home. This after the defense asked for them to. District Attorney Ben David asked for Edwards to take the stand stating the defense is putting forward a theory in which they can’t cross-examine.
The defense is deliberating the request. The judge ordered a recess until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Sept. 15, 2017.