'Dead' man charged with kidnapping girl

A man declared legally dead 16 years ago has been arrested for the kidnapping of a girl whose body was found in some woods.

FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said Thomas Steven Sanders was taken into custody on Sunday at a truck stop in Gulfport, Mississippi, after a huge manhunt in a bizarre case that stretched across the country.

Court documents show Mr Sanders abandoned his family in 1987 and was declared dead by a Mississippi court 1994. He lived unnoticed for years despite being arrested several times.

Mr Sanders, 53, was wanted in connection with the kidnapping of 12-year-old Lexis Roberts, of Las Vegas, whose skeleton was found by hunters early last month. Her 31-year-old mother, Suellen Roberts, is missing. Officials say she is not a suspect in her daughter's death – and they hope she has not met with foul play.

Ms Thorne said Mr Sanders was alone when he was arrested at the Flying J Truck Stop. She would not release other details about his arrest.

Despite being declared dead, Mr Sanders had been able to move about the country easily. Investigators know he lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Nevada. He worked as a labourer, a welder and a scrap metal collector.

Hunters found Lexis's remains in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, on 8 October.