Salem Sabatka: Police spoke with kidnap suspect in hotel room hours before citizen tip led to rescue of 8-year-old girl

The police officers searched the room where Salem was later found — but saw no trace of her

Hours before her dramatic rescue, police in Texas searched the hotel room a man accused of kidnapping 8-year-old Salem Sabatka — but left the hotel without seeing any sign of the girl.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Salem was out for a walk with her mother in Fort Worth on Saturday evening when a man in gray Ford sedan drove up next to him and snatched the little girl into his car, speeding off as Salem’s mother tried to stop him.

After authorities issued an AMBER Alert, the community mobilized to help search for Salem, and two civilian volunteers spotted the suspect’s vehicle in the parking lot of the WoodSpring Suites in Forest Hill early Sunday morning. The two men alerted police, who responded to the hotel and found Salem, apparently unharmed, in a hotel room with Michael Webb, who has since been charged with aggravated kidnapping.

But CNN now reports that police visited the same hotel two hours earlier, and did not find the girl when they searched Webb’s hotel room. The news outlet obtained a timeline of events from the Forest Hill Police Department, showing that officers had followed up on a tip from a hotel guest who claimed to have seen a man with a little girl.

The officers reportedly knocked on the door of Webb’s room on the third floor.

“Webb was less than cooperative, but after several minutes, the officers were permitted to step into the room and look,” the statement reportedly read, indicating that the officers inspected the hotel room for signs of the girl and looked in areas that were large enough to conceal a child.

Authorities had not previously mentioned the first visit to the hotel in a press conference announcing the girl’s rescue, crediting the two men who spotted the suspect’s car as “heroes.”

Salem Sabatka reportedly appeared calm and unhurt when police rescued her, and was reunited with her family after a medical evaluation.

Webb, 51, has an extensive criminal history, and was accused in 2018 of sexually assaulting a woman with a deadly weapon in a hotel room. Prosecutors dismissed the case after the alleged victim reportedly stopped cooperating with the investigation.