A man in northwest Arkansas faces serious felony charges, including false imprisonment, following the rescue of a 5-year-old girl who was hidden in a concealed closet within his home. The dramatic incident, documented by police body cameras, unfolded in Tontitown, a city in Washington County, located about 12 miles east of the Oklahoma state line.
Search Warrant and Rescue Mission
On the day of the rescue, officers from the Tontitown Police Department were responding to the residence of a 40-year-old man to execute a search warrant. Detective Keith Lindley provided details of the incident to USA TODAY on Monday. The purpose of their visit was to assist the State Department of Human Services in taking custody of the 5-year-old girl.
Standoff at the Residence: Rescue
According to an arrest report, once at the residence, the suspect approached the front window. An officer informed him that a court order had been issued to remove the girl from the premises. Initially, the suspect denied having the child at his home and refused to open the door, as stated in the arrest report.
Discovery of the Hidden Child
After a conversation with the officer, the suspect admitted that the girl was inside the home and allowed the officers to enter. While inside, police officers heard sounds coming from a bedroom. The suspect entered the bedroom and, according to the report, knelt in a closet, moving several boxes.
Recovery of the 5-Year-Old
In a video recording, the man, dressed in overalls and a baseball cap, was seen manipulating items concealed underneath clothing within the small closet. Subsequently, the suspect removed a board attached to the wall “to gain entry to a narrow space” behind the closet, as detailed in the report. The footage captured the girl emerging from this concealed space.
“She was very emotional and frightened when she came out. He had advised her not to utter a word or disclose her whereabouts,” Lindley stated. The arrest report described the confined space as ranging from “six to eight feet at the widest point, narrowing down to two to four feet at the other end.”
At the time of his arrest, the man was out on bond for unrelated charges from Benton County, which is located directly north of Washington County. “He was on bond in connection with a methamphetamine offense from our neighboring city to the north,” Lindley stated.
Felony Charges and Bond: Rescue
Law enforcement arrested the man on charges of first-degree child endangerment and interference with court-ordered custody related to the event. He was held in the Washington County jail on Friday and posted a $5,000 bond on Monday after entering a not guilty plea in court.
At this point, it remains unclear whether the man has secured legal representation. His next court appearance is scheduled for December 4.
Natalie Neysa Alund, a senior reporter for USA TODAY, provided this report.