PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Cranston man suspected of abducting a 9-year-old girl in Providence earlier this week is being held without bail after a massive search that led to his capture.
Luis Martinez Romero, 34, was arrested Tuesday and charged with kidnapping a minor and second-degree sexual assault.
“This dangerous individual has been removed from the streets of our city due to the swift and vigilant work of our officers who worked tirelessly on this case,” Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements told reporters outside court on Wednesday.
Harrowing surveillance video released during the search showed the suspect grab the girl and force her into his SUV before driving away. Police said it happened around 3 p.m. Monday in the area Grover and Merino streets, right after the girl stepped off her school bus.
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The girl was dropped off back at the bus stop about an hour later and told her parents she had been sexually assaulted, according to police. She was transported to Hasbro Children’s Hospital to be evaluated, and a massive manhunt ensued with a team of detectives from multiple units, Clements said.
A police report filed with the court as part of the criminal case details how the young girl provided information that led to the suspect’s arrest, telling police he took her to a remote location and sexually assaulted her, then drove to a Burger King drive-thru to buy her food.
The girl’s memory of the order — 10-piece spicy chicken nuggets and a soda — proved crucial in solving the case, according to detectives.
Investigators went to multiple Burger King locations in Providence and Cranston and sifted through surveillance video until they spotted the suspect vehicle in the drive-thru at the 966 Park Ave. location in Cranston. The manager found the chicken nugget order that happened at the same time, the report said, which gave detectives a debit card number.
Warrant in hand, police went to a TD Bank branch in Providence where they linked the card number to a name and address. Detectives then sought and obtained a warrant for the arrest of Martinez Romero.
Martinez Romero was taken into custody at an establishment on Manton Avenue in Providence. The police report said that he is married and was holding a newborn baby at the time of his arrest.
“We know when individuals commit something like this that they are prone to thrive off of what they had just done, so it’s important to identify and eventually take them off the street,” Clements added.
He said there appears to be no connection between the suspect and victim.
At a brief arraignment Wednesday morning, prosecutors asked a judge to hold Martinez Romero without bail, which was granted.
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If convicted, kidnapping a minor in Rhode Island carries as sentence of 20 years to life in prison, while the second-degree sexual assault of a child carries 6 to 30 years.
The judge also issued a no-contact order between Martinez Romero and the alleged victim.
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As of Wednesday, Clements says the girl is safe, doing fine, and receiving all of the assistance and support she needs.
“Nobody did anything wrong here except for the suspect,” he said.
Martinez Romero has no criminal record in Rhode Island but has ties to Florida, so officers have been in contact with officials there to learn more about him, according to Clements.
“This whole community came together, certainly with video, surveillance footage from homes, from residents,” Clements said. “Conversations with residents were helpful in helping lead detectives down the right track.”