UPDATE, 3:45 p.m. Monday, October 10: Rebecca Lewis was found safe and West Hogs is being held in custody, The Palm Beach Post reported.
POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Rebecca Lewis, 4, and her alleged kidnapper, West Hogs, were spotted by a Tennessee park ranger Sunday night.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the kidnapped girl should have been rescued as soon as the two were seen.
The ranger who saw the pair didn’t realize who they were because Tennessee refused to issue an Amber Alert for Lewis when Florida law enforcement asked them to. Tennessee officials said there was no evidence that Hogs and Lewis were in Tennessee.
Judd was visibly angry at a press conference on Monday.
“The state of Tennessee chose not to do an Amber Alert when we asked them to,” Judd said. “Here’s a news flash, Tennessee: He was there.”
The ranger spotted the stolen gray 2012 Nissan Versa Hogs was driving between 10 and 11 p.m. Sunday at Cove Lake State Park and asked the man what he was doing.
Hogs, 31, told the ranger that he was waiting for Lewis’ mother to pick her up, “which was obviously a lie,” Judd said.
The ranger told Hogs the park was closed and that he needed to leave, but he later saw a bulletin on the missing girl and realized he’d let the alleged kidnapper escape with Lewis.
Hogs was a former family friend who lived with Lewis and her family two years ago, Judd said. They had no contact with him since he was kicked out of the family’s home after pulling a gun on them.
“It’s not like he’s taken off with a neighbor kid that he’s been like an uncle to,” Judd said.
Investigators still do not know what Hogs’ intentions are with the girl, but Judd said “she is certainly in immediate danger.”
Lewis and Hogs were also sighted at a gas station in Forsyth, Ga., along Interstate 75, several hours after she was reported missing Saturday.
Lewis, who was seen in surveillance footage with Hogs, appeared to be in good health. She was wearing a light-colored T-shirt and blue jeans.
Deputies said they began their search for Rebecca Saturday morning after her 16-year-old sister noticed that she was missing from her bedroom in the Lazy Dazy Retreat, a mobile home park on U.S. Highway 98 North in Lakeland, Fla.
Lewis’ parents spent more than an hour searching for her before calling deputies, investigators said.
Deputies said Hogs has been driving a stolen gray 2012 Nissan Versa with Alabama handicapped license plate 4JL26. He is bipolar, suffers from depression and does not have criminal history, WTSP reported.
Judd urged Hogs to let Lewis go and warned him against harming her.
“Don’t you hurt that baby. You keep that baby safe,” he said, pointing into the cameras. “We’ll worry about catching you later, but we want that child back right now.”
Anyone who spots the pair or who has information about their whereabouts is asked to call 1-877-419-0934.
Heartland Crime Stoppers is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to Lewis’ recovery, according to WTSP.