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Man who abducted girl from New York camping trip pleads guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault

By Nic F. Anderson and Dalia Faheid, CNN

(CNN) — A man pleaded guilty in court Wednesday to kidnapping and sexually assaulting a girl who was on a weekend camping trip with her family in upstate New York, officials announced.

The girl, who authorities said was under 13, vanished on a bike ride with friends in Moreau Lake State Park some 45 miles north of Albany around dinner time on September 30. And her kidnapper, Craig Nelson Ross Jr., wrote a ransom note to try to get money, court documents state.

Following a search for the child involving hundreds of personnel from multiple agencies, investigators found her alive October 2 at a property in Ballston Spa, some 20 miles from the park, authorities said. Fingerprints on the ransom note left in the family’s mailbox helped investigators identify Ross as a suspect and then track him to the Ballston Spa property, state officials said.

Under a plea agreement in New York’s Saratoga County, the prosecution has recommended that a judge sentence Ross to 47 years to life in prison, including 25 years to life for a first-degree kidnapping charge and 22 years to life for a charge of predatory sexual assault against a child. Sentencing is scheduled for April 17.

“With the guilty plea today of Craig N. Ross, Jr., the victim and their family were able to hear the defendant admit his guilt to these heinous and despicable acts,” Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said in a release Wednesday.

“I think there’s a collective sigh and a pause of a release of a breath” now that Ross has admitted to the felonies, Heggen told reporters outside court.

Ross had pleaded not guilty in November to a nine-count indictment that included predatory sexual assault, kidnapping and sexual abuse charges.

The child will receive a 100-year order of protection against Ross, according to the district attorney’s release. Ross owns a property just over a quarter-mile from the child’s home, authorities had said.

CNN has sought comment from the girl’s family and Ross’ attorney.

Because of the guilty plea, there will be no need for the girl or anyone else involved to testify, Heggen said, adding “how hard it might be to have to repeat about that or talk about it.”

“His admission of guilt ends the question of who was responsible for the kidnapping that rallied our entire community together to assist in locating her,” Heggen said in the release. “He will serve decades in prison before any parole consideration is available to him.”

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