SPRINGFIELD (CBS) – The man accused of triggering an Amber Alert in Massachusetts after police said he abducted a girl off a street in Springfield was ordered held without bail Thursday. Miguel Rodriguez, 24, of Springfield, wore a white jumpsuit, with his hands cuffed behind back as a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf to kidnapping and other charges in Springfield District Court.
Rodriguez was then ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. He was arrested on the Massachusetts Turnpike Wednesday evening, hours after investigators said he forced a screaming 11-year-old girl to get into a Honda Civic at Princeton and Amherst streets about 1:30 p.m. An Amber Alert was issued at about four hours later. A driver soon spotted the car, took down the license plate number and called police.
“There was one person who was really sort of an unsung hero at this point, who saw this car, followed it from a distance for a period of time and was able to alert police to that, which really led to his car being stopped,” Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni told reporters Thursday.
State Troopers then received several more calls reporting seeing the Civic on the Turnpike. They tracked the car down on the eastbound side of the highway in Brimfield around 7:15 p.m. The girl was found in the back seat and taken out safely. She was brought to a hospital as a precaution. Gulluni would not comment on her condition, but said they providing services to her family.
Rodriguez was pulled out of the car at gunpoint and arrested. Police said they found a knife in the door pocket. They were looking into witness reports that a woman was in the car with him earlier, but said on Thursday they are not searching for any other suspects.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said Rodriguez was known to them. Police released surveillance video from Tuesday afternoon, a day before the abduction, showing the same girl walking along the road and a blue Honda Civic, similar to Rodriguez’s car, following behind.
“I’m definitely surprised,” said Marcos Rodriguez, the suspect’s brother. “I really did not think he would do something like that.”
Family members say they tried to get Miguel Rodriguez treatment for mental illness. They had taken out restraining orders against him, his sister said she was scared to come out of her room at night.
Another sister said he came home with a folding knife Wednesday. “He pulled it out and was looking at it,” said Melitza Rodriguez.
The suspect’s family called police during the Amber Alert. “It looked like his car and I noticed that he wasn’t here all day,” Melitza Rodriguez said. “And I was like you know we have to call and make sure that if it’s him that they catch him because we don’t know what his intentions were with that child either.”
According to the police report, a father called police with a license plate number when he saw the Amber Alert. He said a man in the same car had tried to kidnap his daughter on State St. in Springfield earlier in the week.
Troopers were grateful to all the drivers who paid attention to the Amber Alert.
“They made this rescue possible,” said State Police Lt. Charles Murray.
“She’s an amazing little girl,” said State Police Lt. Bob Ackerman of the 11-year-old. “I couldn’t believe how she kept it all together just speaking with us, it’s amazing. I can’t believe how strong she was dealing with this.”
Rodriguez is due back in court Wednesday, January 22 for a dangerousness hearing.