Inspector Jason Stonechild at a Prince Albert Police headquarters conference on Wednesday. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

Prince Albert police say they immediately suspected an abduction in last week’s missing person turned Amber Alert case.

The police service held a news conference on Wednesday to provide further details on the Amber Alert that was triggered after an eight-year-old girl was taken from an Prince Albert east-end school’s park around 3:30 p.m. on July 4. This was Prince Albert’s first-ever Amber Alert activation, and was the first time in the province where an Amber Alert went out using the SaskAlert notification system.

Inspector Jason Stonechild says the girl was found after a member of the public who heard the Amber Alert, which was activated at 7:52 p.m. that day, saw a girl matching the victim’s description “had walked into their yard and was with them” at their rural acreage home just outside the city. Stonechild declined to comment which area outside the city this occurred but said police responded quickly, were able to confirm the girl’s identity, and then took her to Victoria Hospital for assessment.

With help from the Ministry of Environment, canine officers, and other police services, investigators were able to track footsteps into a wooded area which police believe is where the girl was dropped off, Stonechild said.

Police Chief Troy Cooper says a “staggering” number of slightly less than two million people were sharing information via social media about the Amber Alert.

Police Chief Troy Cooper. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

“We know that in our own community people cared. In the city we saw people driving around with the information, looking for the suspect, looking for the suspected vehicle and that was certainly appreciated. And it’s a real necessity in cases like this when we have a very short period of time, somebody is in danger,” Cooper says.

Meanwhile, Stonechild says Jared John Charles, 19 was quickly identified as a suspect after surveillance footage was obtained and probations ID’d him.

He had been on probation after a conviction in relation to two boys who were taken from their La Ronge home last fall. Although that case also sparked an Amber Alert, the abduction charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence. However, Charles was convicted of being in contact with kids under 16 in breach of a court condition he’d been on at the time, and with a separate sexual assault.

“Shortly after the victim was located, our service received a tip from the public indicating the suspect was currently inside of a business located in the West Hill area of Prince Albert. Our members immediately responded to this tip and the suspect was located inside and was arrested without incident,” Stonechild says.

Police then searched the vehicle and address in Prince Albert associated with Charles.

Charles has since been charged with abduction, kidnapping, sexual assault, and forcible confinement. He is in custody and expected to appear in court again on Friday.