JEFFERSON, La. – Deputies arrested a suspect in the kidnapping of a 7-year-old girl Wednesday evening. The little girl was found two miles from her home about an hour after she was reported missing.
Steven Carter, 29, of Kenner, was booked on one count of aggravated kidnapping and one count of aggravated rape. He was arrested at Odyssey House, a drug rehabilitation facility in New Orleans in the 1100 block of North Tonti Street.
Investigators looked for Carter at his home on Iowa Street in Kenner, but his family informed detectives he was living at the Odyssey House.
Odyssey House President Ed Carlsen said Carter was arrested outside the facility, but was not a current client.
"Bizarre is the word here," Glen Boyd, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, said. "I talked with one of our detectives. He said he has been on the force for the 17 years as a detective and never worked a stranger abduction case."
Carter doesn't have a criminal record, and wasn't registered as a sex offender.
Neighbors were stunned in the quiet Metairie neighborhood where the girl was kidnapped. She was taken just before 5 p.m. Wednesday in the courtyard of her Fat City apartment complex.
“My reaction was like, ‘Wow, that could have been my girls.’ I have a 9- and a 10-year-old that play with the same little girl. I was, like, in awe,” said Wanetta Joseph, who lives at the Yorkshire Edenborn Apartment Complex.
The suspect walked into the courtyard several times, apparently canvassing the area, before picking the little girl up from behind and bringing her to his small gold car, said Glenn Boyd, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.
A surveillance photo from the apartment complex shows Carter and his gold car. The vehicle believed to be used in the abduction was later taken to the Jefferson Parish crime lab.
Authorities don't believe Carter has any connection to the little girl. They say several other children playing outside saw the abduction.
About an hour after the child was reported missing, a parent's nightmare turned into relief.
A woman found the child in the 900 block of West William David Parkway. Detectives believe the girl was able to get out of the car and alert neighbors. Police found her in front of Amir Zeton's house.
“I just got out of the shower, I opened the door, I see a bunch of cop cars surrounding the area and stuff,” said Zeton. “I'm just in shock, like, out of all places, our house?”
Neighbors reported the main gate to the apartment complex has been broken and unlocked for months. They're hoping this incident will prompt management to fix the lock.