4-year-old girl reunited with family following kidnapping - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

4-year-old girl reunited with family following kidnapping

Rebecca reunited with her grandmother. (Source: WFLA) Rebecca reunited with her grandmother. (Source: WFLA)
These are the Baptist Memorial Hospital employees who spotted Lewis and contacted authorities. (Source: WMC Action News 5) These are the Baptist Memorial Hospital employees who spotted Lewis and contacted authorities. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
West Hogs was arrested and taken to the Shelby County Jail. (Source: SCSO) West Hogs was arrested and taken to the Shelby County Jail. (Source: SCSO)

Rebecca Lewis has been reunited with her family.

The 4-year-old girl was abducted from her Lakeland, Florida home Saturday. She was found in Memphis on Monday with 31-year-old West Hogs.

Kaytlin Brown had only been working at Baptist Memorial Hospital for a couple months, but now everyone in the hospital knows her name. That's because Monday, she became a hero.

Brown was returning from her lunch break when she saw a young girl in the hospital with a middle-age man. The pair looked familiar.

"I just saw a man holding a little girls' hand walking toward me. I took my right and started walking. In my head I could think, 'Man, that looks just like the little girl from the picture.' So, I slowly turned around again and when I turned back around, I was positive, that's the little girl from the picture," Brown said. "I took that right turn and just took off. I ran for the OR, ran straight to my dad and just came up to him and told him, 'I don't want to freak you out, but this little girl is in this hospital with this man.' He looked at me and said, 'Let's go.'"

Brown's father is Carey McIllwain; he's a surgery nurse at the hospital. He and Brown walked closer to the man and young girl and said 'Hi.' They did this to get a better look at both of them.

“She [the little girl] didn’t really say anything, she was very quiet, we noticed that. You could tell she was being led. Other than him responding to my ‘hi’ to him, that was the only thing," McIllwain said.

Brown and McIllwain were certain the little girl was Rebecca Lewis, the subject of an Amber Alert out of Florida. Brown said the girl was wearing the exact same outfit as the one in her Amber Alert picture--a picture she had seen just minutes before while scrolling through Facebook on her lunch break.

Brown and McIllwain contacted security; security immediately contacted police. Security kept an eye on the man and girl until officers arrived.

"I'm just so glad that everyone acted so fast the way they did and so well together. No one panicked, no one freaked out, everyone just worked so well together and I'm so thankful for that," Brown said.

Security manager Orlandis Blakley said his staff made sure to keep multiple eyes on Rebecca and the man she was with. They wanted to make sure they didn't lose sight of them, but also didn't spook them before police arrived.

Authorities quickly arrived, took Hogs into custody, and made sure Rebecca was safe. It's still unclear why Hogs and Rebecca were in the hospital.

Tuesday, Rebecca was back in the loving arms of her family in Florida.

"Just seeing her to walk through the door is a big weight off my shoulders," Rebecca's grandmother Oma Mae Lewis said. "Even though I knew she was here, until I could touch her I didn't know she was here."

When asked what she would do if she could talk to the Memphis hospital workers who found her granddaughter, Oma Mae said she would do anything.

"I would like to get my hands on her to give her the biggest hug, take her to breakfast, lunch, whatever she would like me to go," she said. "I want to say thank you to you, because without you, I don't know what this would have been."

The Lewis family said they have a huge party planned at home for Rebecca.

"Thank you for bringing me home," Rebecca said. "Bye, bye! We're going home."

Meanwhile, Hogs is in custody in Tennessee. His birth name was Matthew Pybus, but he legally changed it to West Hogs. 

Despite him taking Rebecca, Oma Mae asked people not to bash Hogs. 

"He made sure she had food. He made sure she had clothes. He definitely needs help, guys," Oma Mae said. "Matt, please get the help that's being offered to you."

As everyone involved gets back to their normal day-to-day life, Brown said she's just thankful she did the right thing.

“I am still in shock," Brown said. "I can’t believe it happened, but I’m more just thankful that I was placed in that spot at that time. That it was still fresh in my memory, that I was paying attention. I’m glad I acted the way I did and didn’t just freak out. I’m glad I didn’t just second guess it in my head and just, you know, let it go. I’m really happy the way everything happened the way it did. More than anything, I’m thankful she’s safe and with her family because I couldn’t imagine being in their shoes.”

TBI talks about issuing Amber Alert

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received some push back regarding their delay in issuing a state-wide Amber Alert for Rebecca.

The Sheriff from Polk County, Florida essentially accused Tennessee of dragging its feet in issuing a state-wide Amber Alert.

When Florida officials first asked TBI to issue an Amber Alert, the group pushed back because the case didn't meet Amber Alert criteria. TBI later issued an Amber Alert just in East Tennessee, then (after Hogs and Lewis were spotted in Nashville) changed the alert to a state-wide alert.

However, TBI Public Information Officer Josh DeVine said the Bureau followed their procedures and were satisfied with the way they handled the Amber Alert.

"We're all on the same team when it comes to law enforcement," DeVine said. "We asked if there was any reason to believe he [Hogs] was in Tennessee, he said 'no'. We asked if he had any information that the man she was with had a criminal history, and he said 'no'."

DeVine said based on those answers, the decision was made to not issue an Amber Alert initially in Tennessee.

"It's important to note this is not a unique decision we made," he said. "We are the state clearing house for the state of Tennessee. Every state has a clearing house."

DeVine said they seek to have confirmed evidence before issuing an Amber Alert.

"We don't want to cause undue panic," he said. "The information we had at that point was of a credible, but not a confirmed, sighting in Campbell County."

However, he said he wanted to make it clear that Tennessee is not the only state to ever say no to the initial Amber Alert requests. He specifically sourced Virginia as a state who denied issuing an Amber Alert from Tennessee when there was no specific evidence that the suspect or child was in Virginia.

"Tennessee is not the only state in the country that has strict rules that dictates what constitutes an Amber Alert," DeVine said.

He said TBI issued the statewide Amber Alert when they had confirmed Wild West Hogs' credit card was used in Nashville. 

"We escalated our system based upon the information that was available to us at the time," DeVine said. "This system has been in place for 15 years, has a 95 percent success rate for recovering children."

He said although the Amber Alert was not issued in a statewide manner initially, a BOLO was sent to all law enforcement Saturday afternoon and all law enforcement were aware.

"We're committed to doing it [our job] in a smart and judicious fashion because we think that's what the people of Tennessee expect from us," DeVine said.

He said in the end, despite the criticism, the way they handled the Amber Alert worked.

"The Amber Alert that we did issue here in Tennessee did ultimately result in the recovery of this child," DeVine said. "We're confident in the way we handled it...we made the decision we did based upon the information we had."

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