A Pennsylvania man is behind bars after he reportedly admitted to kidnapping a little girl after breaking into her Washington Township home last week. He’s also been accused of burglary while trying to kidnap another child.
CBS 21 reports that 20-year-old Thomas Anthony Dewald is accused of kidnapping 4-year-old Gemma Moats from her home off of the 12000 block of Pen Mar Road on April 25. According to police, the suspect got into the residence through an unlocked door.
A few days later, on April 28, Dewald allegedly broke into a nearby home with the intent to abduct a child, but fled after he heard a dog barking.
Gemma’s father noticed her missing at around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday. The man said he got up to use the restroom and saw the girl’s bedroom door open. Since they typically close her door after putting her to bed, he checked in on Gemma and couldn’t find her. The father contacted police immediately.
At around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, authorities found the little girl around two miles from home, off of 14000 block of Harbaugh Church Road, after a passerby spotted her. At the time, police didn’t know who took the girl, but they announced that she didn’t wander away from home alone.
— WPMT FOX43 (@fox43) April 30, 2019
According to court documents, Dewald’s grandmother told authorities she went to the suspect’s bedroom to make sure he made his bed, when she heard what sounded like a child crying nearby. She called police and told them she wasn’t sure of the exact location, but pointed to an area where she heard the cries.
When a trooper checked the area, he found a chest under and air conditioning unit. Inside the chest, the officer found strands of blonde hair inside. When the suspect came home from work, authorities confronted him and he reportedly agreed to a DNA test. He also admitted to abducting Gemma Moates, police said.
During questioning, Dewald also admitted that he had been searching the area around Gemma’s home with the intent of kidnapping a child. He claimed he specifically sought out homes with no surveillance cameras.
Dewald told police zeroed in on the Moates residence and after entering the home, stayed there around an hour before deciding to take the little girl. The suspect claimed the girl’s older male sibling would have been “too heavy” to kidnap.
@PSPTroopHPIO are looking into if an attempted #burglary that happened on Sunday around 3:45 AM in the 14000 block of Lower Edgemont Rd in Washington Township, Franklin County is connected to #Gemma #Moats due to the proximity of the homes. pic.twitter.com/zHpYh1sQos
— Thao Ta (@thaolamta) April 29, 2019
Dewald took the girl back to his home and bound her mouth with tape, according to police. Afterward, he put her in the wooden chest and left his home. When he returned, the little girl was gone. Dewald reportedly told police that he had no idea how the girl escaped from the chest.
The little girl was uninjured and received a clean bill of health from a local hospital, following the incident.
On the second incident in question, Dewald said he broke into the home via a window and noticed three sleeping children. He reportedly said he decided not to take any of the kids since they were living in “acceptable conditions.” When he heard a dog barking, he ran through the kitchen and exited the house through the kitchen door.
State police Lt. Mark Magyar said Dewald’s name surfaced while authorities conducted routine searches around the area.
“It is through this investigative diligence and meticulous attention to detail that we’re all able to rest a little bit easier tonight,” Magyar said, according to Local DVM.
Authorities said the suspect had definite intentions of endangering the children.
“His intentions were certainly endangering children that were inside that residence,” Magyar added.
Dewald is behind bars Franklin County Jail. he’s being held without bail. He’s scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m. on May 14, at the Franklin County Central Court.
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Thomas Dewald/Police Handout]