LOUISIANA, Mo. | Police searched frantically Tuesday for a man in a dark sedan suspected of taking a 4-year-old girl from her front yard in a small, quiet Mississippi River town.
Alisa Maier and her 5-year-old brother were playing in the yard of their Louisiana, Mo., home about 8 p.m. Monday night. The boy told police a man he did not know, driving a four-door car, pulled up and ordered his sister to get in. Then the car drove away.
Billy Cox, a special agent for the FBI office in St. Louis, said stranger abductions are rare, but this appeared to be one. Authorities were interviewing the boy, seeking any clues they could get from him.
“He’s a little boy, so you do the best that you can,” Cox said.
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Police had only a vague description of the abductor — possibly a white male with dark hair in his late teens or early 20s. Media reports said the sedan might have front end or hood damage.
At least 60 police officers and more than 100 residents were joining in the search, some from as far away as St. Louis. A Louisiana police spokeswoman said searchers were also looking in a creek bed not far from Alisa’s home, but nothing had been found. Volunteers went door-to-door seeking information and handing out fliers. The Louisiana Press Journal reported that authorities were looking at information from security cameras.
Louisiana, a town of about 4,000 residents 80 miles north of St. Louis, has a Mississippi River bridge, prompting some concern the suspect might have taken the girl to Illinois. The family’s home is a short distance from Route 79, a highway along the river that runs from Hannibal to near St. Louis.
Alisa is 3 feet tall, weighs 40 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue jean shorts.
Neighbor Anita McKlevis told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the mother of the missing girl had just stepped inside to fix dinner when Alisa disappeared. McKlevis said the mother called police, then jumped in her van to try and track down the suspect’s car.
“She was scared to death,” McKlevis said of the girl’s mother. “Her voice was shaky, she was just beside herself.”
The girl’s disappearance hit hard in Louisiana. Police Chief Rich Hughes, who has children about Alisa’s age, cried as discussed the investigation with reporters, the Hannibal Courier-Post reported.
“Our goal is to bring her back here to her family,” Hughes said. “We are following up on all leads. We are getting a lot of leads.”
Hughes said a weekend carnival had brought more strangers than usual to Louisiana.
Roy Harrison, her grandfather, told KMOV-TV that people in the neighborhood had noticed the black car driving around the area several times before the abduction and were suspicious of it. He described Alisa as friendly, happy go-lucky and mischievous.
“She’s 4 years old,” he said. “It’s hard to get them to understand stranger danger.”
Cox said only a small percentage of the thousands of abductions that happen in the U.S. each year involve strangers.
“The reality is they are fairly rare,” he said.