Kidnapped 5-year-old girl found in Roan Mtn.

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A five-year-old girl who was kidnapped when her mother's car was stolen from a Johnson City laundromat early Tuesday morning was found two hours later in Roan Mountain by an off-duty law enforcement officer. Police are still looking for the man who stole the car and kidnapped the child.
   According to Johnson City Police Department investigators, shortly before 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Jessica Thomas, of Johnson City, entered a laundromat at 415 W. Market St., leaving her sleeping daughter in the vehicle while it was running.
   "While (Thomas) was inside the laundromat an unidentified white male left the laundromat and jumped into her vehicle," states a press release from JCPD Inv. Billy Church.
   Two hours later, around 4:30 a.m., Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Brad Hamm found the little girl in a driveway on Cove Creek Road, located off of U.S. Highway 143 near Jack's Grocery in Roan Mountain.
   Hamm said he was running his newspaper delivery route in that area when he found the girl. "She was in a driveway, and when I started to drive by, she ran out and waved me down," he said.
   The girl was not injured. "She had wet herself, and she was worried about that," he said. "She was emotional, of course, but she wasn't crying. She basically said that she didn't know where her mother was at and didn't know where she was at."
   Temperatures in the county were in the 30s in the early morning hours on Tuesday, but according to Hamm, the girl was dressed warmly, wearing what he described as a "sweatshirt-type" jacket.
   The man who stole the car abandoned the vehicle before walking the little girl to the driveway of a residence on Cove Creek Road, Hamm said. "She said he had told her to go to this residence and they would help her find her mother."
   Hamm alerted other officers who responded to the scene and located Thomas' stolen vehicle, a Saturn, approximately a mile-and-a-half to two miles up Hughes Gap, near the Tennessee/North Carolina border.
   The girl was transported to the CCSD and was reunited with her mother around 5 a.m.
   According to JCPD Sgt. Steve Sherfey, a security camera at the laundromat captured a surveillance video of a white male whom investigators believe is the man who stole the vehicle. "We've got a few (leads) but we're still working on that," he said.
   Hamm stated he saw a man walking on the side of the road just minutes before finding the girl, but when he went back to look for the man, he was gone.
   Anyone with information relating to this incident is asked to call the Johnson City Police Department at 434-6166 or the Crimestoppers hotline at 434-6158.