Maci Lilly was found alive and well on Sunday morning, according to the Roosevelt County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office. On Friday, the Montana Department of Justice issued an Amber Alert for the 4-year-old girl, who was abducted from a Wolf Point park at approximately 9 p.m. that evening. The sheriff’s office also confirmed the arrest of 20-year-old John “Billy” Lieba, who is the suspected abductor.
Although the motive is unknown, authorities said Lieba grabbed Maci Lilly and took her against her will. According to the initial Amber Alert, which was published by KPAX, the suspect “fled on foot into the West End housing area.” Authorities believe he eventually left the area and headed toward Cascade County.
— Aunt Chasie (@AuntChasie) February 29, 2016
Maci and Billy are both residents of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, which is home to members of the Assiniboine and Sioux nations. As reported on the tribal website, the reservation is approximately 3,200 square miles and has nearly 10,000 members. An estimated 6,000 of those members reside on or near the reservation.
Authorities confirmed Lilly and Lieba have both lived on the reservation for some time. However, they did not confirm whether they are related or know each other prior to the abduction.
On Saturday evening, authorities announced John “Billy” Lieba was taken into custody and questioned about Maci’s abduction. Unfortunately, Maci was not with him at the time of his arrest, and he did not provide any details about her whereabouts.
Although they feared the worst, officials intensified their search for the missing child. NBC News reports volunteers throughout the region joined local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in their search for the 4-year-old girl.
On Sunday afternoon, Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Frederick announced Maci Lilly was found alive “a few miles outside Wolf Point.” Although few details are known at this time, Frederick’s Facebook post said the 4-year-old girl appears to be “in good health.” However, she underwent a medical evaluation as a precaution.
— Amber Cobbins (@AmberCMCJ) February 29, 2016
In a follow-up post, the sheriff confirmed Maci was reunited with her family. He also thanked the civilian volunteers and numerous law enforcement agencies who assisted in the massive search.
Reuters reports an estimated 115 children are abducted by strangers in the United States each year. Although 57 percent are found alive, 43 percent are either killed or are never found. In most cases, “when the kidnappings are the work of a stranger, the snatcher has typically targeted the child for sex.”
In stark contrast, nearly 200,000 children are abducted by family members in the United States each year. Although a majority of those cases are linked to divorce and custody battles, an estimated 58,000 of those children are abducted by pedophiles.
Although the statistics are grim, the recovery rate has increased due to technological advances and awareness programs, including the Amber Alert.
StatisticBrain reports a total of 818 Amber Alerts were activated in the United States between 2002 and 2015. As a result of those alerts, authorities recovered 277 victims and apprehended 146 suspects.
Unfortunately, Amber Alerts are not issued for all missing children. According to the United States Department of Justice, there are specific requirements to activate the alerts.
First and foremost, law enforcement officials must confirm an abduction has actually taken place. They must also confirm the child is at risk of “serious bodily injury or death.” Although each state is different, Amber Alerts are rarely issued for children over the age of 16.
Thankfully, Maci Lilly was found alive and appears to be in good health. However, authorities have not disclosed whether she knew her abductor or what prompted John “Billy” Lieba to take the 4-year-old girl.
[Image via Maya Kruchankova/Shutterstock]