KERRVILLE, Texas – A man suspected of a series of three kidnappings of young girls killed himself when authorities stopped him Friday. His most recent victim was safe, an FBI official said.
Eleven-year-old Leah Henry of Houston was abducted Tuesday. Authorities had believed a serial kidnapper was at work because two other girls had been abducted, held for days and then released, in recent weeks.
The suspect was identified as Gary Dale Cox, 48.
Cox's criminal record in Texas shows at least three sexual offenses involving girls ages 12 to 14. He registered as a sex offender in Montgomery County.
When Cox was stopped in rural Kerr County on Friday morning, Leah bolted from the other side of the car and ran toward law enforcement authorities. The suspect then shot himself in the head, FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne in Slidell, La., said.
Leah was taken to a hospital, Thorne said.
"The main thing is this child is safe and the individual is dead," Slidell police Chief Ben Morris said.
Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer said officers were acting on a tip when they stopped Cox's car. A witness in a Houston suburb had seen a man talking to two young girls Monday and took down his license plate number.
Hierholzer said the girl was evidently being kept in a deer hunting camp in Kerr County, in a rugged, brushy area.
Authorities began looking for a serial kidnapper after 11-year-old Lisa Bruno, who was abducted from near her suburban New Orleans home in April, gave a description of her kidnapper that closely matched one given by 9-year-old Nykema Augustine, who was abducted in San Antonio in March.
Both girls were held captive for days.
Federal agents and police had been searching for a cabin in the Seguin area, about 70 miles southeast of Kerrville, on Thursday and Friday. The search for the shack was based on highway signs Nykema and Lisa said they saw and the amount of time they spent in their abductor's car.
"He is picking children of this particular age group that he has focused on, and his violence is increasing as he goes along," San Antonio police Lt. Cozette Fogus had said.
Tim Henry, Leah Henry's father, helped search organizers send out 140 volunteers to search for her.
"She is alive, she's well, and she'll be back here soon," he said Friday.