POPLAR BLUFF, MO. (KMOX) – Poplar Bluff police confirmed just before 2 p.m. that 5-year-old Abigail Bertholf has been found alive and a suspect, Jeffrey Shelton, is in custody 10 miles southwest of Poplar Bluff.
Officials told KMOX at 2:45 that Abigail was undergoing evaluation but that no sign of sexual assault had been reported. Shelton was undergoing police questioning at the same time.
The Poplar Bluff Police Department say they were first called to the 2100 block of Wood St. this morning in reference to a missing child.
Bertholf was reportedly taken from a couch in the living room of her home around 6:50 this morning. An AMBER Alert was issued later in the morning.
Police believe Abigail was abducted by 46-year-old Jeffrey Shelton, who is a registered sex offender. They are basing this on a report from someone who knows Shelton and who reported seeing him with the girl at another residence around 6:30 this morning.
The missing girl and the suspect lived about a mile apart in Poplar Bluff. KFVS is reporting that Shelton hung around the area often and that parents had confronted him about being too close to children.
A press conference was held just after 1 p.m. Wednesday. Poplar Bluff police chief Danny Whitely and FBI officials offered few new details in the case but urged Shelton to drop off Bertholf safely at a hospital, police department, or elsewhere.
“I’d just like to ask Jeffrey to release Abigail… let’s just get her back safely,” Whiteley said. “We are asking Jeffrey to release her, she is of the utmost importance right now, and we pray for her safe return.”
Less than thirty minutes after the press conference ended, Poplar Bluff police confirmed that they Bertholf had been found alive and that a suspect is in custody.