NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 3-year-old Lower Manhattan girl is home safe, and her nanny was due in court facing numerous charges, after police said the two went missing Tuesday — setting off a search.
Gabriella Russo was returned home overnight by the nanny, Fatima Alexander, police said. The child had been missing for around 15 hours, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, Alexander – a longtime and trusted caregiver with no known prior criminal record – stood charged Wednesday night with kidnapping, endangering the welfare of a child, and unlawful imprisonment.
Police said Alexander inexplicably went AWOL for 15 hours, disappearing with Gabriella, whom she was supposed to drop off at daycare in the morning.
“It’s a little perplexing for us on exactly why she did this, but she said she just wanted to take the child for a walk,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. “A little strange.”
The child was seen leaving her home on River Terrace in Battery Park City with Alexander around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, police said. But the school Gabriella attends said the child and the nanny never showed up, sparking the search, CBS2 reported.
“She didn’t make it to school. They saw her leave here on camera and that’s it,” Gabriella’s aunt Rebecca Russo said Tuesday. “She’s been with us for 15 years.”
Surveillance cameras near the high-rise captured the long-time nanny walking with the toddler after she picked her up.
Investigators told CBS2 that Alexander spent the day riding the subways across Manhattan with Russo, and took the toddler to Central Park.
It all happened while Gabriella’s family was left in the dark, worried sick.
“You see it on the news,” Rebecca Russo said Tuesday. “Now it’s happened to me; my family.”
Alexander had left her phone back at the Battery Park City apartment, and police did not find the pair at Alexander’s Brooklyn apartment.
Gabriella’s aunt was present for a long-awaited reunion back at the apartment building around midnight Wednesday morning.
Alexander walked in with Gabriella and was quickly surrounded by police officers and relatives who were both relieved and irate.
Cameras captured the confrontation between Alexander and the child’s relatives at the time of the reunion. Alexander was taken into custody once she walked through the lobby.
When asked by reporters where the two had been, the nanny replied, “nowhere,” 1010 WINS’ John Montone reported.
“The nanny, if you will, had been with the family for three years,” Boyce said. “A trusted lady, no issues before that, so it was a little surprising.”
The girl was taken to the hospital as a precaution but was not harmed. The child has since returned home.
With their daughter home safe, parents Marc and Lourdes Russo told CBS2 they were too exhausted to go on camera and provided a statement.
“We are happy to report that Gabriella is doing well,” they said in the statement. “Both mom and dad have a long road ahead in grasping the consequences of what has happened.”
Other nannies in the neighborhood were surprised with what happened.
“I actually started crying because I thought was really sad for it to be so close,” one nanny said.
Police said Alexander has no criminal record or history of mental illness.