ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla (NewsNation Now) — An 11-year-old Florida girl who escaped an attempted abduction at the bus stop used knowledge from her favorite TV show to leave police a clue that helped them identify the suspect.
Alyssa Bonal said she learned the importance of evidence from her favorite TV show, the long-running detective series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Alyssa was attacked Tuesday as she awaited her school bus, her near-abduction captured by a neighbor’s home security camera. She was playing with slime at the time of the attack.
“I was able to get the slime onto his upper arm and a little bit on his lower arm,” Alyssa told NBC’s “Today” show Thursday. “I knew that might be better evidence if the cops do find him.”
Her intuition proved right. Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons said when his detectives arrested Jared Paul Stanga late Tuesday after a massive manhunt, his arms were still streaked with blue dye.
“He got caught blue handed,” Alyssa’s mother, Amber Bonal said to NewsNation affiliate WKRG.
“Her first words were, ‘Somebody tried to kidnap me. He grabbed me by my throat and he had a knife,'” Bonal told the Pensacola News Journal. “She said, ‘Mom, I had to leave some sort of evidence behind, like on Law & Order SVU.’ We’ve watched probably every episode on Hulu. She’s a smart cookie, she thinks on her toes.”
Security camera video shows Alyssa alone on the traffic island at 7 a.m. Tuesday. A white van passes her — she looks at it as it drives away. Alyssa said she began to feel scared. She had told her mom and teacher two weeks earlier that a man in a white van had approached her at the bus stop, speaking Spanish to her and making her feel uncomfortable.
“What is he going to do with me? Where is he going to, where am I going to be at?” Alyssa said. “What is my family going to think?”
The van returned a minute later and stopped.
“A man came out of the car, he had a knife in his hand,” Alyssa told WKRG. “I tried running off but he grabbed me. He took me with his arm, I was able to get him down to the ground and I was able to get away.”
Alyssa then ran to the nearest house where her neighbor Dogulass Rudolph had his door open.
“She comes running around the corner toward me hollering my name and said some guy was trying to get her,” said Rudolph.
Bonal said she had been walking her daughter to the bus stop every morning since the strange man approached the girl, but as they were leaving Tuesday, her 18-month-old daughter suddenly needed a diaper change and she feared Alyssa would miss her bus.
“I want parents to be extra aware, even parents that watch their kids 24/7,” said Bonal .”The one time you don’t, that was the one time that I was running late. I had to change the baby’s diaper.”
Stanga, 30, remained jailed Thursday on $1.5 million bond on charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and assault. His attorney, Robert Dees, questioned Stanga’s arrest during a Wednesday court hearing, saying Alyssa did not definitively pick him from a photo lineup and initially said her attacker was Hispanic. Stanga is white.
Prosecutors said the evidence against Stanga is strong. In addition to the slime, the silver bumper of his van had just been painted black — detectives during the manhunt had described the silver bumper in their bulletin to the public. They say Stanga was also seen making a purchase at a nearby convenience store minutes after the attack wearing the same clothes as the assailant, and he texted his boss saying he would be late because he had to take his child to school — even though the child is attending school online.
NewsNation affiliates WKRG, WJW and the Associated Press contributed to this report.