ST. GEORGE – What police officials call one of their “worst fears” had the best possible outcome Friday night after a 31-year-old man who had abducted his 6-year-old daughter was apprehended and the girl was found unharmed.
At about 7:30 p.m. Friday, the St George Police Department received a report of a child abduction in the area of South Dixie Drive in St. George. They learned that earlier in the day, at about 3:30 p.m., 31-year-old Shane Robert Swenson took his 6-year-old daughter from her home.
Swenson does not have custody of his daughter and was described by police in a press release as being homeless and having mental health issues.
“It’s our understanding that he showed up at the house to visit his daughter,” St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said. “There was a moment where the rest of the family became distracted and he was able to slip out of the house with his daughter. That’s when the family of the home noticed she was missing.”
Family members searched the area for the next three hours to no avail; after that, they contacted the police.
Once the call was made, police began to saturate the area with officers. An incident command post was also established at Tonaquint Park to coordinate search efforts. Police additionally contacted citizens, business owners and motels in the vicinity and provided them with descriptions of Swenson and his daughter.
“It was about 10 p.m. when we started to receive reports from citizens and local businesses of possible sightings of that individual and his daughter,” Despain said.
Reports placed Swenson and his daughter in the area of South Bluff Street near the McDonald’s restaurant, where police ultimately apprehended him a short time later. Before then, he had apparently been going in and out of motels on Bluff Street, looking for the best deal on a room, Despain said.
“He was shopping around, which was good,” Despain said with a grin. “He was trying to get the best price.”
Police made contact with Swenson by McDonald’s, and while he wasn’t very excited to see officers, Despain said, he was taken into custody. The 6-year-old girl was found uninjured and subsequently returned to her mother.
“This ended the best possible way,” Despain said. “This is one of our worst fears. It’s something we train for and prepare for; we don’t want this call of an abducted child.”
Despain said the Police Department brought in all of its resources to aid in finding Swenson and the little girl.
The Police Department was on the verge of calling in its hostage negotiation team and SWAT team, in addition to issuing an Amber Alert and other bulletins to the public. A Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter had also been called in. Yet, thanks to what Despain called great cooperation between police and the public, those additional resources didn’t have to be used.
“We credit this to great cooperation with the citizens of St. George and local business owners for keeping an eye out and providing information that ultimately led to us finding Swenson and his daughter,” Despain said.
Swenson was taken to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Detectives are currently reviewing the circumstances surrounding the incident and will subsequently determine what charges may be filed in the case.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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