A 10-year-old Louisiana girl who was abducted over the weekend was found safe after two sanitation workers spotted the suspected kidnapper’s vehicle.
The girl had gone missing on Sunday afternoon from a family member’s home in New Iberia, about 20 miles southeast of Lafayette.
New Iberia police issued an Amber Alert for her and an arrest warrant for her alleged abductor, who police identified as Michael Sereal. Authorities said Sereal was last seen driving a silver Nissan Altima.
Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, who work for Pelican Waste & Debris, said they had just started their route on Monday morning when they noticed a silver Nissan parked in the middle of a field in St. Martin Parish.
Merrick said he immediately recognized the car from the Amber Alert.
“I told the guy who rides with me, that’s the car. I pulled forward and backed up to block the entrance [to the field] and then called 911,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Merrick said the driver of the vehicle opened the car door and Antoine recognized him as the suspect from the Amber Alert. They relayed the information to the 911 dispatcher. Police were at the scene in under a minute.
Merrick detailed St. Martin Parish deputies’ arrival in a Facebook Live video that has garnered two million views as of Wednesday. In it, authorities take Sereal into custody as he yells, “Why are you doing this to me?”
He’s since been transferred to New Iberia and charged with aggravated kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender, according to jail records. He is listed on the New Iberia sex offender database for a conviction on carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
A spokeswoman for the police department said Sereal is an acquaintance of one of the girl’s family members. It was not immediately clear if he has obtained an attorney.
The girl was reunited with her family after the ordeal.
Merrick, a 39-year-old father and U.S. Navy veteran, started working for Pelican Waste less than three months ago. He said he didn’t think twice about helping the little girl.
“I didn’t want anything to happen to her,” he said. “We’re all from the same town. We’re a big community, it might be a small town, but we’re a close-knit community so I had to do what I had to do for my community.”
Pelican Waste & Debris praised Merrick and Antoine for their roles in saving the girl.
“At Pelican Waste we strive for a family atmosphere and try to emanate that to our workers. We are super proud of the genuine efforts by these valued employees now and always,” a spokesperson for the company said. “This was an exceptional thing that may very well have saved a little girl’s life.”