AURORA, Colo. - An 8-year-old girl was snatched from her bedroom in Aurora early Monday morning, and now police have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the kidnapper's arrest.
"We are treating this matter extremely seriously. We think there's a predator out there, and he has to be stopped and he has to be caught," Aurora's police chief Dan Oates said during a Monday afternoon news conference.
At about 12:15 a.m. a man cut the screen off an unlocked window on the side of a house on Hanover Street near East 17th Avenue, police said.
The man reached into the ground-floor window and grabbed the girl, pulling her out through the window, investigators said. But as he was running away with the child she was able to scream for help.
The girl's father heard her, ran out of the home and found his daughter running back from the alley behind the house, police said.
The father told police he saw a newer model silver or grey BMW sedan drive off southbound through the alley and then westbound on East 16th Avenue.
Police are looking for a white man with short blond hair. He was wearing a heavy black winter jacket and had the distinct odor of cigarette smoke, investigators said.
On Monday night, police released a composite sketch of the man they were looking for after conducting an extensive forensic interview with the victim.
The girl was checked out at a hospital and suffered very minor injuries, according to police. The girl returned home from the hospital at about 5:30 a.m. wrapped in blankets.
-- I've never seen anything like this, chief says --
Stranger abductions are rare and the fact that the girl was taken from her own bedroom -- a relative safe haven -- is astonishing to the police.
"I've been in this business a long time and I've never seen anything like this. Obviously, I wouldn't be here today, as the chief giving this press conference, if I didn't think that this was a terribly important event and that we really need your immediate support and the public's support to catch this guy ... I have not seen anything like this previously in my career," Oates said.
To underscore the seriousness of the issue, Oates announced the $10,000 reward, saying that this is only the second time in the history of the Aurora police department that a reward has been that large.
"I hope that conveys the seriousness of our passion to find this person as soon as possible," Oates said.
Of the $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the predator, $2,000 came from Crime Stoppers, $3,000 from the Aurora Police Department, and $5,000 from the SungateKids Child Advocacy Center.
-- Residents on edge --
"We feel worried after this kidnapping attempt. We feel threatened in this community," neighbor Valante Parra told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart on Monday night.
Twyla Louise Wilkerson, a friend of the girl's family, said: "These are good people right here. These are very good people."
"I hope they catch him because that's wrong, because that's a child," an angry Wilkerson added.
Aurora Police spokeswoman Cassidee Carlson said investigators are checking on registered sex offenders living in the area.
-- Man not known to family --
Beatrice Padilla, the girl's grandmother, told the Denver Post the girl was doing homework in her bunk bed at the time. Another child was asleep in the room, Padilla said.
"He said, 'I know your family,'" Padilla said of the intruder.
Padilla said the man covered the girl's mouth with his hand as he tried to take her from the home.
Padilla couldn't provide details of how the girl got away from the man.
"I don't know what's going on. We don't know who he is," Padilla said. She told the newspaper that the situation was "scary" and the little girl is "still in shock."
Police don't believe the family was targeted.
"There is nothing in this family to indicate that they are targeted for any particular reason. We do know a light was on in the bedroom. It might have been possible for the predator to look and see inside that there was a child, that is our current working theory, because the light was on inside the bedroom, but beyond that, there's nothing to indicate that this family was targeted in particular, which in some ways makes it even more chilling," Oates said.
-- Girl credited for screaming, struggling --
Police have worked with Aurora Public Schools to put out an advisory to parents in the immediate area, and have notified surrounding law enforcement agencies and neighborhood watch groups.
A part of APS' advisory will include safety tips for families. Police commended the girl for putting up a fight and say that's a lesson for parents to educate their children to do the same.
"One important element to this story is a lesson for all of us as parents. This young girl immediately cried out, immediately put up a fuss and a struggle, and who knows if that might have saved her life. She was pulled out through the window but she managed to escape. … Who knows how the outcome might have been different were it not for the struggle and the noise and the commotion that she put up which drew her father immediately to the scene and was probably a factor in her escape," Oates said.
Aurora police say they will be conducting more interviews with the family and continue canvassing in the area, going door-to-door, talking to neighbors. They are also asking for surveillance video from all the businesses in the immediate vicinity, in the hopes that the vehicle was caught on tape.
Investigators will also search databases, looking at convicted sex offenders who may correlate and query any and all prior incidents in the Denver metro region.
The girl and her family live in a green single-story home in a residential neighborhood made up of single-family homes and apartment buildings.
7NEWS has learned that a sex offender lives in the three-story apartment building next door to the girl's home.
Aurora police are asking anyone who may have any information on this case to call Detective Christine Hurley at (303) 739-6113.
You can also provide information on this case and remain anonymous by calling CRIME STOPPERS at 720-913-STOP (7867). You may also text your tip to 274637 (CRIMES) then use the title DMCS and enter your message.