From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Abducted girl brings Easter to life for North Carolina
15 Apr 1998 14:43:48
April 15, 1998 Contact: Linda Green*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.
By Dawn Hand*
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) - Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week,
but for members and friends who gathered for worship at Memorial United
Methodist Church, it marked a frantic, daylong search for a 12-year-old
girl who was abducted from the church.
The girl was found in a nearby county, seven hours after she was
discovered missing. Her hands were bound by duct tape, she had bruises
and scrapes, but she was alive.
A member of the church's youth handbell choir, the girl was with a
friend when a stranger approached, asking for help in bringing flowers
to the church. The friend refused, but the victim said she would help.
Shortly before 11 a.m., the church children lined up to receive
handbells for the processional when it was noticed that the girl was
missing. Some adults began searching for her, and the worship service
The Rev. Ned Owens, pastor at the 903-member church, received word that
the girl had not joined the choir. "I asked a couple of ushers to go
quickly throughout our structure to see if they could find her," he
said. A few moments later, a child spoke up saying, "She went with a man
to get some flowers," he said.
At that point, Owens said he knew the girl was in trouble. Someone
called the police, and the congregation prayed.
Immediately after worship, Owens said, several hundred members of the
congregation organized a search, and the police responded quickly. After
talking with members, the police sent a helicopter to search the area
for a white industrial van. Meanwhile, word spread throughout the
community about the missing girl.
"The faith groups and entire community really helped us out. . . .People
helped to pass out fliers, search for the little girl, and many brought
food to the church," Owens said.
While some members remained at the church, the girl's parents decided to
go home at 4:45 p.m. in case their daughter called. More than an hour
later, the call came. It was from their daughter. A motorist had spotted
her on the side of the road, picked her up and called the sheriff's
department. Officers took her to the hospital, and she was reunited with
Before leaving for the hospital, the parents alerted the church that
their daughter had been found. Church members and friends returned to
the sanctuary to offer songs of praise and prayers of thanks for a
little girl whom Owens later described as courageous.
"I was surprised when I looked in our sanctuary and saw two-thirds of
the sanctuary filled with people who had been here all day long," the
Three days later, on April 9, police arrested Robin Wayne Martin, 41, of
Charlotte. He was charged with kidnapping, first-degree rape,
first-degree sex offense and taking indecent liberties with a child. He
is being held without bond at Charlotte's Mecklenburg Jail Central.
Martin was a member of Memorial until 1993. He grew up in the church,
was married there, and he and his wife raised their two children in it,
Owens said. Martin's parents are still active in the congregation.
Martin was convicted on Sept. 16 in Danville, Va., of sexual assault and
exposing himself to a minor, and he was freed on a $10,000 secured bond,
according to the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. His sentencing date was
postponed from Oct. 27 without a new date set. After getting permission
to leave Virginia, he returned to Charlotte and took a part-time job
with a printing company.
On April 12, members and friends at Memorial praised God for the life of
the victim and her family. The girl's father emotionally thanked the
congregation for their prayers and support.
Western North Carolina Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer attended worship at
Memorial on Easter Sunday. Through the tragedy and triumph of this
ordeal, she said, "This church has been living the Holy Week story, and
they will never forget it in terms of walking from Palm Sunday to Easter
as a church family."
# # #
*Hand is the director of communications for the Western North Carolina
United Methodist News Service
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