PEARISBURG — Two-year-old Noah Gabriel Trout seemed lost — snatched from the nursery of a Ripplemead church — then a day later was found, the Giles County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.
The happy outcome of the search for the toddler, who Virginia State Police said Sunday was thought to be in extreme danger, came after an array of local, state and federal agencies joined forces. Investigators identified a possible suspect and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Virginia State Police swooped in on an Alleghany County location to recover Noah and arrest a Clifton Forge woman, Sheriff Morgan Millirons said.
Noah seemed fine after his 25-hour disappearance, Millirons said, though more tests will be done at a hospital.
Nancy Renee Fridley, 44, was charged with abduction and felony child endangerment. Millirons did not take questions about what link she may have had to the boy, but said investigators have yet to establish a possible motive.
It was not immediately apparent when Fridley would make a first appearance in Giles courts.
Noah’s disappearance became a public matter Sunday afternoon as Virginia issued an AMBER Alert asking the public for any help finding the 2-foot-9-inch, 33-pound youngster.
Noah had vanished at noon from Riverview Baptist Church, located in the 200 block of Big Stony Creek Road. He was thought to have been taken away in a dark-colored SUV or van.
In a photo that state police released, the possible abductor walks toward an exit door with Noah following. The suspect wears a blue jacket and blue jeans, black tennis shoes, a black or dark blue knit cap, glasses, and a medical-style face mask. Noah, his blond hair buzzed short on the sides, wears an orange jacket.
What happened next wasn’t described at the two news conferences held Monday by the sheriff’s office. Millirons said he knew that the community wanted answers but asked that people be patient as an investigation continues.
The sheriff gave a capsule description of Fridley’s arrest, saying the FBI and state police teams began watching an Alleghany County location, spotted a child that matched Noah’s description and moved in.
On Monday afternoon, before Noah’s rescue was announced, people came and went from Riverview Baptist Church. The church has several buildings and operates a number of ministries including the Jefferson Christian Academy and a daycare.
A man in the parking lot said a reporter was not welcome. Pastor Mike Mitchener did not return a phone message asking for comment, but did post a statement on the church’s website Monday afternoon calling the previous 24 hours “a nightmare for our entire church family.”
Writing that prayers were answered with Noah’s safe return, Mitchener thanked law enforcement and said Riverview was working to make its facilities safer.
“We hope that this criminal act on our campus allows other churches to evaluate their own childcare safety procedures,” Mitchener wrote.
The pastor listed transparency and accountability as essential parts of a successful ministry but said that there would be no further statement for now on Noah’s case because the church did not want to interfere with the ongoing investigation.
Stanley Meador, special agent in charge of the Richmond FBI Field Office, spoke briefly, thanking the agencies and officers assisting as well as those who sent tips and information.
“Because of you, Noah gets to rest peacefully tonight, under the watchful eye of his parents,” Meador said.
Millirons and Meador thanked a number of agencies for assisting in the search, including the Pearisburg Police Department, U.S. Marshal’s Service, Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, and the state police.