Crime

Hours before kidnapped girl’s rescue, Forest Hill police checked suspect’s room

Fort Worth residents celebrate safe return of 8-year-old kidnapped

Fort Worth residents celebrated the safe return of Salem Sabatka, an 8-year-old who was kidnapped Saturday, May 18, 2019.
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Fort Worth residents celebrated the safe return of Salem Sabatka, an 8-year-old who was kidnapped Saturday, May 18, 2019.

Two and a half hours before an 8-year-old Fort Worth girl was rescued from her suspected kidnapper, Forest Hill police had gone to the man’s motel room, questioned the suspect and even looked inside his room but did not see the child.

The Forest Hill officers had been dispatched to the WoodSpring Suites at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, about five and a half hours after Salem Sabatka was reported kidnapped while walking with her mother near 6th Avenue and West Lowden Street.

A front desk clerk at the motel told the officers that someone had called the front desk and reported they thought they’d seen the man Fort Worth police were looking for in connection with the missing girl.

“They said they saw him earlier and that he had a girl with him,” according to information released by the department Monday evening after an earlier inquiry by the Star-Telegram.

Based on the description provided by the caller, the clerk told police she believed it could be a man staying in a room on the third floor.

“She then directed them to Michael Webb’s room on the third floor,” the release states.

Officers knocked on the door but got no immediate answer. After numerous other attempts, they finally made contact with Webb through the door, the release states.

“Michael Webb was less than cooperative, but after several minutes, the officers were permitted to step into the room and look,” the release states. “Upon entry into the room, the officers made visual inspection of the areas of the room that appeared to be large enough to conceal the missing child.

“They did not locate any other occupants inside the room. With no one located and no other information available, the officers cleared the scene.”

The release states the officers did inquire with the clerk about any vehicles that Webb might be driving but none was associated with his room. They also checked the parking lot but did not see any cars that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle.

At about 2 a.m., Forest Hill officers returned to the scene after receiving another tip. Fort Worth officers arrived about six minutes later and took over the investigation.

“The child was located with Michael Webb a short time later,” the release states.

Fort Worth police have said two people saw the suspect’s car in the parking lot of the motel while helping in the search effort and alerted police. Officers breached the door and found Webb and the child inside the motel room.

Webb remains in the Tarrant County Jail in lieu of $100,000, facing an aggravated kidnapping charge.

Forest Hill Police Chief Dan Dennis said the department is looking into the officers’ handling of the earlier call.

“As with any major incident, we’re reviewing our handling of the incident and trying to determine if there’s anything we could do better,” he said, but declined to comment further.

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