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Alleged kidnapper called 911 to say his victim wanted to go home
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Before police found Jeffrey Dean Shelton and a missing 5-year-old girl named Abigail in his sport utility vehicle Wednesday afternoon, he called 911 to tell authorities the girl he allegedly had abducted from her Wood Street residence early in the day was ready to go home.
The child named Abigail was back with her family Thursday.
Shelton, a convicted sex offender has been charged with her kidnapping. By calling 911, Shelton effectively turned himself in after an Amber Alert was issued by the FBI. About 40 investigators with the Poplar Bluff Police Department, Butler County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol were following leads surrounding the girl's disappearance.
Searches by ground and air were conducted, and additional officers were patrolling highways looking for a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder in which Shelton allegedly had fled with the child.
Shelton placed his 911 call at 1:37 p.m. Wednesday.
Frankie Casteel, communications supervisor at the sheriff's department, answered.
"This is Jeffrey Dean Shelton. You're looking for me," he said. "I'm ready for you to come get me. I'm on M highway." He told Casteel the missing girl was safe and sitting next to him asleep and wearing a seat belt.
"Is the girl hurt whatsoever? Is she OK?" Casteel asked at one point.
"She's not hurt. She just wants to go home," he said. "She's ready to go home and see her mama."
When asked the girl's name, Shelton replied "Abby," but he denied knowing her or her last name. He described her as having olive skin and wearing a pink nightgown that matched a description provided by the girl's mother.
Casteel asked to speak with the child. Shelton obliged.
"My name's Abby. I want to go home," she said. "I don't know where my house is, and I want to go home."
"OK, baby girl, we're going to come find you," Casteel replied.
The girl then can be heard on the 911 recording telling Shelton: "I forget to tell him something. I love you," she said to Casteel.
When asked for his location, Shelton said, "If you guys don't come up, I'm going to stop at the Call of the Wild [now known as The Pony]." At one point he told Casteel he was very thirsty and wanted to stop at Crossroad Convenience.
"I don't want you to hang up with me," Casteel said while patiently urging Shelton to remain where he was and to stay calm. He coaxed Shelton to stay on the line until officers arrived.
An unarmed Shelton was arrested about 15 minutes after placing the call. He was taken into custody at the intersection of U.S. 67 and Highway 160. Abigail was inside the SUV.
Less than seven hours after she was reported missing, Abigail was in an ambulance on her way to Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center. Authorities said she was in good spirits and had asked officers for chicken nuggets and a soda.
Meanwhile, Shelton was in a squad car en route to the Poplar Bluff Police Department.
During their conversation, Casteel told Shelton he was doing the right thing calling authorities.
"I know I am," Shelton replied.
But Shelton, who had been convicted in 1990 for the abduction, rape and sodomy of a 12-year-old girl in Fort Hood, Texas, voiced his concern.
"You guys are going to kill me," he said.
Casteel assured Shelton no one was going to kill him.
"You have to trust me. You trusted to call 911; I'm asking you to trust me now," Casteel said.
Audio of the 911 call is available at darnews.com.
Poplar Bluff, MO