Missing Texas 8-Year-Old Found Safe After Members Of Her Church Spot Vehicle Of Alleged Kidnapper

Salem Sabatka was described as calm and unharmed after police found her in a hotel with a 51-year-old man.

By Eric Shorey
Salem Sabatka

An 8-year-old girl in Texas has been safely recovered from her alleged kidnapper by police.

Salem Sabatka was taken to a hospital after being discovered at a hotel with Michael Webb, 51, on May 19. Webb has since been arrested and now faces a felony charge of aggravated kidnapping.

Video of Salem being grabbed and whisked away from her mother during a walk outside Fort Worth, Texas was caught by a local's doorknob security camera on May 18. Her mother attempted to fight off the alleged abductor but was unsuccessful. The man who took the child then drove away.

Police immediately issued an Amber Alert and shared images of the getaway car on social media. Local churchgoers who recognized the escape vehicle from public alerts called their sighting in to police, leading them to Salem's rescue from the WoodSpring Suites Fort Worth Hotel at around 2:30am.

Buddy Calzada, spokesman for the Fort Worth police, announced the happy news at press conference later that day.

"As you can see, there is a smile on my face. I'm here to report that Salem has been found safe," Calzada said, according to CNN.

The police have now hailed the two citizens who aided Salem's recovery as heroes. The two will remain unnamed until the investigation is completed.

Following her retrieval, Salem was reunited with her family. She was described as calm and unharmed.

Tim Keith, a neighbor of Salem's, led a walk through the town to celebrate. 

“This is a very tight-knit community,” Keith said, according to CBS 11 of Grapevine, Texas. “When anything comes up in this neighborhood that’s out of the ordinary, you see the citizens of this neighborhood band together very quickly.”

“It was just like a nightmare had come to an end," Keith continued. "I passed that info along to the rest of the neighborhood. People were wrecked with an anguish because of this situation because one of our own was taken during broad daylight with her mom right there. It’s just truly unbelievable."

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price also participated in the walk and shared her elation.

“I just love seeing that this community came together. It’s part of the reason we had such a successful result finding her and getting her back in her parents’ arms,” Price said to CBS 11.

Webb is not related to Salem. Police suspect he will face additional charges. 

Webb's criminal record indicates he has been arrested 15 times since 1985, according to CBS 19 of Tyler, Texas. He had most recently been jailed in April of 2018 after facing aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sexual assault charges. He was released on a personal recognizance bond as the case was dismissed in November of 2018.

Webb's bond has not yet been set. He was booked into the Tarrant County Jail on Sunday morning.

A motive for his actions remains unclear.

“I can’t put myself into a kidnapper’s mind,” Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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