Fort Worth residents celebrate safe return of 8-year-old kidnapped
Ryan Place is the sort of neighborhood where the relationships among residents are warm.
There’s the candlelight Christmas tour fundraiser. The Fourth of July parade. The annual softball game with nearby Fairmount.
So when a little girl was kidnapped Saturday evening and there appeared to be no connection between the assailant and victim, their firm sense of safety was fractured.
Salem Sabatka, 8, was abducted as she walked with her mother.
“It’s shaken our neighborhood,” said Jennifer Lovelace, 42, a mother of two daughters, ages 8 and 3. She spoke of the worry that consumed her Saturday until it became clear Salem had been found safe. The moms of the neighborhood poured what they had heard into text message groups.
Seemingly at once, cars pulled out of driveways, as the neighborhood began looking for the imperiled girl. Perhaps the suspect had dropped her off, they wondered. The thoughts of others turned to what the kidnapper could be capable of.
“It was impossible to sleep even if you wanted to,” Lovelace said.
She recalled a trip her older daughter took around the block, with friends but no adults, the day before.
Again and again, Sunday evening they pointed to two factors that sped Salem’s safe return: the expansion of door surveillance cameras that in this case captured images of the suspect’s vehicle. And the use of social media to spread wide the images of the suspect’s car.
On the streets of Ryan Place on Sunday evening, the sense of relief was certain.
It was clear in the hugs among neighbors. In the applause for police efforts. And the smiles on the faces of adults of the Fort Worth neighborhood where, 24 hours earlier, panic reigned.
Residents gathered for a walk down 5th and 6th Avenues to celebrate that Salem had been found.
Michael Webb, 51, is accused of kidnapping Salem on Saturday evening. Webb was booked into the Tarrant County Jail on an aggravated kidnapping charge just before 6 a.m. Sunday.
Salem was walking with her mother near Lowden Street and 6th Avenue about 6:30 p.m. Saturday when a man grabbed her and pulled her into his car, police said. Police said Salem was found safe at 2:30 a.m. Sunday at the WoodSprings Suites hotel in Forest Hill.
At the end of the walk Sunday, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald addressed neighbors.
Price said she and many in the city had been “on bended knees,” late Saturday. The city’s prayers had been answered, Price said.
“We know our neighbors,” said Tim Keith, the president of the Ryan Place Improvement Association. He spent nearly four hours late Saturday in search of Salem.
“This neighborhood is incredibly vigilant. There’s eyes on kids all the time.”