12-year-old girl abducted at Reagan National Airport found safe

Authorities announced that the 12-year-old girl who disappeared from a Washington, D.C. airport with an unknown woman was found unharmed in New York City with her parents on Friday.

The girl, JinJing Ma, was listed as in “extreme danger” when police issued an AMBER alert on Thursday, but the airport authority announced Friday that she was located with her parents in Queens, New York.

Around 9 a.m. ET this morning, Jin Jing Ma and her two biological parents showed up at the Demidchik Law Firm in Flushing, New York after seeing the story about their daughter on the news.

The law firm says that it was Jin Jing Mah’s biological parents that picked their daughter up at Washington Reagan National Airport on Thursday — a result of a misunderstanding. When the parents saw the story on the news, they called the law firm last night and arranged to come in on Friday morning.

A law enforcement source told ABC News the girl’s parents were in the U.S. separately from the tour she was traveling with, so when she went missing from the tour they reported her missing.

The FBI met with the parents and child at the law firm on Friday. No one was detained and it appears it will be treated as a misunderstanding and not an abduction. The FBI is still investigating if any federal crimes were committed, including whether visa fraud could be implicated.

“This is a great example of the work that can be accomplished when the community and law enforcement come together to achieve a common goal,” Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Chief of Police David Huchler said in a statement.

“We are grateful that Jinjing is safe and with family,” the statement continued. “Our goal was to locate her to ensure she was safe and unharmed, and we accomplished that goal. I’m proud of our Airports Authority detectives’ excellent work in this case and grateful that we are part of such a capable law enforcement community.”

Huchler said at a subsequent press conference Friday that authorities conducted interviews across the country to trace the footsteps of the tour group in which the youngster was traveling.

Virginia State Police and the Virginia Missing Children Clearinghouse issued an AMBER alert Thursday for a child abduction at Reagan Washington National Airport. Later that evening local authorities announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was involved in the search for Ma.

“The child is believed to be in extreme danger and was last seen leaving the airport,” according to the alert. Huchler confirmed to reporters Friday that she is still considered to be in “extreme danger.”

Calling their help “invaluable,” Huchler told reporters Thursday evening that authorities are working with the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, the Virginia State Police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Police have also reached out to the community to assist in the search for the missing girl.

On Friday, Huchler added the Department of State and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the list of agencies coordinating efforts with local authorities.

Federal authorities are tracking down leads and conducting interviews across the country to trace the footsteps of the tour group Ma was with and to glean information on the three suspects at the center of the incident: the unknown Asian woman, an unknown Asian man seen with the woman in the airport before Ma disappeared and a man driving a white Infinity SUV with New York license plates that Ma was spotted getting into.

Huchler also told reporters that the threat of these suspects appears to be contained to this incident.

“We want to assure the community that there does not appear to be a threat to the greater community,” he said.

Ma arrived in the U.S. on July 26 with a Chinese tour group, authorities said.

“It wasn’t until the tour group started checking in to security that another child with the group alerted adults to her absence,” Huchler said Thursday.

The group’s name, which translates to “Delta,” has already continued on to San Francisco despite Ma’s disappearance.

Authorities, using surveillance footage throughout the airport, believe Ma was abducted by a middle-aged Asian woman wearing a black dress. Investigators said Ma met up with the unknown woman inside the airport, changed her clothes and walked out of the airport with the same woman. She was last seen in the arrivals area of the airport before disappearing out of camera view.

Huchler called the incident “very serious” during the Thursday press conference.

“We don’t know the circumstances under which she left, it didn’t seem to be forced,” he said. “We don’t understand why she left because of her age, and circumstances – this is a very serious incident.”

But in a twist, this may not have been the first time Ma has met with the woman in the surveillance footage. Investigators told reporters that during a stop in New York City prior to her disappearance, a witness reported that he may have seen the same woman in Manhattan handing Ma food.

Authorities are in the process of notifying the Chinese Embassy. Efforts to reach Ma’s grandfather in China have so far been unsuccessful, Huchler said.

It is unknown if Ma speaks English, authorities added.

“We are working every theory,” Huchler said. “For us, it’s our priority No. 1 … She needs our assistance until we can determine otherwise.”

Categories: News, US