A pastor who located an 8-year-old girl abducted in Fort Worth, Texas has credited “divine intervention” for her miraculous recovery, saying God literally led him to her location.
Jeff King, pastor at Bear Creek Bible Church in Keller, helped track down Salem Sabatka after she was abducted by Michael Webb, 51, while out walking with her mother in Fort Worth on Saturday.
Video footage of the kidnapping showed the girl’s mother jumping into the grey Ford Five Hundred and desperately trying to save her daughter before Webb shoved her out and drove off.
After King, a childhood friend of Salem's parents, heard about the incident, he and a friend began canvassing the streets of Fort Worth searching for the suspect's car.
“I was sitting at home with my wife when a friend texted and said that our friends' daughter had been kidnapped. All I could think is what are we going to do to help?” King told NBC DFW. “We were told by detectives the best places to check are hotels, apartments, and parks.”
The two men searched until after midnight when they got a tip from someone that they should check out a hotel in Forest Hill. After searching the car park at the tip-off location they found no sign of the suspect's car.
However, after pulling into the Wood Springs Suites hotel, the two men saw a car that fit the description.
“God literally led us to this place. It was not on my itinerary, we were not trying to go there, we just drove by. It was divine intervention, 100 percent,” King said.
The pastor and father-of-two called the police, who then found Salem in the hotel miles away from where she had been abducted.
“It was a crazy moment. I asked police, 'Did I hear that right? Did they find her? Is she safe?'” he said. “Then finally one officer said, 'Yes sir, they have her.'”
Police allowed King to be the one to call Salem's parents and tell them the little girl had been found alive.
"I feel like God allowed me to be a tool," the pastor said.
On Facebook, Bear Creek Bible Church celebrated the little’s girls recovery, writing: “The Lord is so faithful!”
Following the little girl’s recovery, King, who local media dubbed a "hero," led a prayer at a press conference in her neighborhood.
“Thank you, Father, that she’s alive and she’s with us still and that she has a wonderful life to live ahead of her, Father,” he prayed. “I can’t thank You enough for the redemption and grace You show us all the time. I can’t thank You enough for the death of Your son on the cross as a substitutionary atonement in our place. Father, I can’t thank You enough for last night and being able to locate that vehicle. Thank you, Father, for guiding us every step of the way.”
According to NBC, part of the kidnapping was captured on the doorbell camera of a neighbor. Footage shows the card speeding off before Salem’s mother dialed 911, screaming: “Help me please, someone call the police, my daughter just got kidnapped.”
Police quickly started looking for the girl and sent out alerts with photos and details of the car. Webb, who had a lengthy criminal history — including being charged with aggravated and sexual assault in April 2018 — was arrested eight hours later and booked on a charge of aggravated kidnapping.
“Those of you who have camera doorbells, keep them going,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said at a press conference. “They were a huge help in getting this settled.”