Abducted girl, 8, survives landfill burial

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The Independent US

An eight-year-old girl was rescued by a police officer after she was crammed into a recycling container beneath slabs of cement in a landfill rubbish dump. She was allegedly put there by a teenager who has been charged with abducting and sexually abusing her.

An eight-year-old girl was rescued by a police officer after she was crammed into a recycling container beneath slabs of cement in a landfill rubbish dump. She was allegedly put there by a teenager who has been charged with abducting and sexually abusing her.

She was found on Sunday, just seven hours after police in Lake Worth, Florida, south of West Palm Beach, issued a statewide missing persons alert.

Florida is still in shock from two recent abductions of young girls. On both occasions the victims were found dead.

Tragedy this time was averted, however, when police scoured a large rubbish dump outside the city. After climbing into a 25ft rubbish skip, Sergeant Mike Hall spotted the recycling drum and opened its lid. He saw a finger and foot poking from the slabs and calledfor help.

Sgt Hall told ABC's Good Morning America that he summoned a fellow officer "and he shouted out, 'her finger is moving!'

"At that point, the expression on everybody's face just changed. It went from a hopeless scene to 'there's hope there now'."

Sgt Hall continued: "For her to endure what she did and live for more than seven hours in the recycling bin says a lot for her."

Police Chief William Smith said: "That we found this child alive is a miracle." The key to the survival of the girl, who was suffering from dehydration and abrasions from the concrete blocks, had been finding her so quickly, he added.

A 17-year-old suspect named Milagro Cunningham is in custody. According to the police he has confessed to kidnapping the girl. He faces charges of attempted murder, abduction of a minor and sexual abuse. He will be tried as an adult.

The girl, who has not been named, was staying in the home of her godmother on Saturday night. She spends occasional weekends there when her mother is away at work. Mr Cunningham was a guest in the house. After it was noticed that the girl was missing, he told family members that she had been snatched by two men who had driven her away in an estate car. Adults in the house soon began to doubt his version of events, however, and called the police.

Such was the weight of the rubble on top of the girl, that she would never have had a chance of escaping alone, a police spokesman said. And she was far enough from any homes that no one would have heard if she cried out.

After being taken to hospital in West Palm Beach, she was able to describe her alleged assailant and give police his name.

According to Danielle Holloman, a family friend who visited the girl in hospital, she never lost hope that she would be found. She said the girl had told her, "I was lying there waiting. I knew you were coming."

The memory of what had happened to her was apparently still vivid. "She said the last thing she remembers is that he looked over her with these big eyes and then she said she went to sleep. She said she was waiting for us to find her," Ms Holloman added.

Ms Holloman said everyone was shocked, not least because they had never before considered Mr Cunningham dangerous. "He was a good person."

The two girls found killed in the state this year were Jessica Lunsford, nine, whose body was found in Citrus County in March, and Sarah Lunde, 13, who was found dead last month in Hillsborough County. In both cases, charges have been laid against previously convicted sex offenders.

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