PUYALLUP — A 7-year-old girl reported missing from her home Wednesday was found severely beaten in the woods nearby hours later, police said.
Police are investigating the assault after finding the girl early Thursday morning near her home at the Glenbrooke Apartments in the 700 block of 43rd Avenue SE in Puyallup.
The girl was choked, may have been sexually assaulted, and could not walk out of the woods on her own, police said.
The girl’s parents called police after she went missing from the complex, and family and friends searched for hours and failed to find her.
“Please God, let me find this baby alive and okay,” said Amanda Villalva, whose young daughter often plays with the 7-year old victim. “All I could think of is, what if that was my child?”
Police called to the scene canvassed the complex in a door-to-door search. The canvas failed to locate the girl, and an officer from Normandy Park Police and his bloodhound were called to the scene at 11:50 p.m after a resident located the victim’s shoe near the edge of a wooded area.
The bloodhound located the severely injured girl in the wooded area at 12:13 a.m.
She was able to identify her alleged attacker as a 14-year-old boy who lives in the same apartment complex. Police issued a search warrant for the suspect and took him into custody at 4:45 a.m.
The teen lives just a few doors down from the victim. Despite the age difference, the two apparently often played together.
“Something like this happens, you don’t expect it to because you see them two hanging out all the time,” said Aren Holland, a neighbor who also helped look for the little girl.
During the search, neighbors said the teenage suspect was hanging around the parking lot, and may have given misleading statements about where the girl went. They also said he had joked in the past about killing someone.
The teen hasn’t been charged yet but will be making a court appearance Friday.
The little girl was rushed to the hospital, where she is in stable condition and improving.
Villalva is relieved her daughter’s playmate is still alive.
“We all stood in prayer last night, prayed a few different times, so to hear that she’s alive and OK was probably the greatest feeling ever,” she said.