Campground Kidnapping: Man Gets Decades For Abduction, Sexual Assault Of NY 9-Year-Old

A confessed kidnapper who abducted a 9-year-old girl from a New York state park before sexually abusing her in a case that garnered national attention could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Craig Nelson Ross Jr., age 46, confessed to kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from Moreau Lake State Park in September 2023. 

Craig Nelson Ross Jr., age 46, confessed to kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from Moreau Lake State Park in September 2023. 

Photo Credit: Saratoga County Sheriff's Office/Wikimedia Commons user BowersE

Saratoga County resident Craig Ross Jr., age 47, of Ballston Spa, was sentenced to 47 years to life in prison in Saratoga County Court on Wednesday, April 17.

It followed his guilty plea to kidnapping and related charges in which he admitted to abducting the child as she rode her bike in Moreau Lake State Park in September 2023.

According to investigators, her mother called 911 after finding the girl’s bike along a path near their campsite in the 6,200-acre park. State Police activated an AMBER alert the following day, saying they were investigating a possible abduction.

The case started to break at around 4:20 a.m. Monday, Oct. 2, at the family's home in Corinth, which was being guarded by troopers while the parents remained at the campsite.

That's when a car pulled up to the mailbox and police found a ransom note.

Troopers were able to identify a fingerprint from the note and got a hit from a 1999 DWI charge in Saratoga as a match, Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference that evening.

Police then searched multiple homes in the village of Ballston Spa where Ross is known to reside.

Finally, at around 6:30 p.m., law enforcement teams in two helicopters descended on a property with a double-wide house where Ross’ mother lives. Inside, they found the young girl hidden in a cupboard.

Ross was arrested behind the home “after some resistance,” police said.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, he pleaded guilty to kidnapping with intent to collect ransom and predatory sexual assault against a child.

The judge issued an order of protection on behalf of the victim. Ross will also have to register as a sex offender. 

Following the sentencing, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen called Ross' actions "heinous and despicable."

"The sentencing today by Judge James A. Murphy, III of Ross to an aggregate of 47 years to life reflects the Court’s determination that Ross’ actions were so vile and wicked that he should face up to life in prison," Heggen said.

"He will serve decades in prison before any parole consideration is available to him.  This result is due to the tremendous efforts of the New York State Police and their numerous law enforcement partners, along with the outpouring of support from the citizens of the community who turned out in so many ways in support of the child and their family.”

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