PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A bank card belonging to a woman abducted from a Philadelphia street was used the next morning in Maryland by a man whose grainy image was caught on bank cameras, police said Tuesday as relatives tearfully pleaded for her return.
Detectives said the security images show a man using Carlesha Freeland-Gaither’s card at 6 a.m. Monday at an ATM just off a highway exit for Aberdeen, about 75 miles from Philadelphia. The transaction occurred less than nine hours after the reported abduction Sunday night.
Philadelphia police released a series of the images late Tuesday. The man in the pictures is wearing a hoodie, and the pictures that reveal his face are dark and blurry.
The girl’s grandmother, Ana Mulero, told The Associated Press she did not recognize the man in the pictures. The missing woman had lived with her in Maryland for several years, and still has acquaintances there, she said.
Chief Inspector Dennis Wilson said Philadelphia police were working with Maryland authorities and the FBI to search the area.
It was a fresh lead in a case that quickly gained attention after police released black-and-white surveillance video showing the 22-year-old woman flailing in vain as a man rushed her along a sidewalk to a parked car.
The FBI said Tuesday it was also working to enhance the video and was offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. Local officials previously pledged $17,000 in rewards.
“Our goal is the safe return of Carlesha to her family and friends,” Christian Zajac, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia office, said at a news conference.
Several of Freeland-Gaither’s relatives also spoke.
“Just return her to us, to her family,” Mulero said. “We need her.”
Freeland-Gaither’s mother, Keisha Gaither, said: “I just want her home. She got family. She’s loved. Just let her come home.”
To her daughter, Gaither said: “Just fight. Don’t give up. Just fight.”
Freeland-Gaither, a nursing assistant at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia, had graduated from high school in Maryland and lived with her grandfather in Philadelphia until a couple of months ago, when she moved in with her boyfriend, relatives said.
Freeland-Gaither worked with cancer patients and was pursuing a career in nursing, Mulero said.
“I’m very proud of her,” her father, Carl Freeland, said. “She was always there for anybody and everybody no matter what.”
Police said they were unsure if Freeland-Gaither might have known her abductor or whether there was more than one person involved.
A witness called 911 at about 9:40 p.m. Sunday and reported seeing a woman identified as Freeland-Gaither screaming for help as she was forced into a dark gray four-door vehicle.
Police said Freeland-Gaither’s glasses and cellphone were dropped on the street, near piles of broken auto glass.
The witness said Freeland-Gaither — described by her parents as easy going until she’s threatened — broke the car’s rear side windows before the vehicle sped off.
Police said the suspect is in his 20s and about 5-foot-10 with a medium to heavy build. They said he is likely driving a gray, four-door Ford sedan — the vehicle in the surveillance video — likely built between 2000 and 2002.
Freeland-Gaither’s parents circulated fliers in Germantown, the neighborhood where she lived and was last seen. Facebook groups sprung up with prayers for her safe return.
Mayor Michael Nutter approved a $10,000 city reward Monday for information on Freeland-Gaither’s disappearance.
John McNesby, the President of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Tuesday the union would offer an additional $5,000 reward. The Citizens Crime Commission added $2,000.