Updated Monday, Nov. 23, at 1:30pm
A Massachusetts toddler vanished from her home early Friday and was discovered hours later, naked and burned, on a roadside miles away. Now the girl’s former babysitter is charged in the kidnapping and assault.
Police say Abigail Hanna, 21, snatched 2-year-old Lyndon Albers, whose parents reported her missing from the family’s South Hamilton home around 7 a.m. The bizarre case prompted state police to conduct air and canine searches of the area.
Tim and Joanie Albers said they last saw their daughter around 3 a.m. and called 911 once they realized she was gone. Cops haven’t released a motive in the abduction, but Fox25 in Boston said the couple recently fired Hanna.
Hanna, of Topsfield, is being held without bond on charges of kidnapping, assault and battery on a child, and breaking and entering in the nighttime.
She pleaded not guilty during her arraignment Monday. At the hearing, she kept her head down and eyes shut as the Newburyport district court judge said she must stay away from the Albers should bail be set.
Court clinician Dr. Tammy Howe said Hanna has a history of psychotic episodes and suicide attempts. During a weekend evaluation, the babysitter sat on the floor, nodding and shaking her head in response to questions, Howe said.
“She was unable to present a factual understanding of the charges or even understanding of where she was,” Howe said, later adding that Hanna is “basically mute.”
“At the present time, she is experiencing multiple psychotic symptoms, including auditory hallucinations …. instructing her not to speak with me,” Howe told the court. “She is experiencing suicidal ideation.”
Howe said she doesn’t believe Hanna is competent to stand trial. The judge ordered Hanna to undergo a full evaluation at the Worcester Recovery Center before she returns to court Dec. 11.
“Abigail is addressing serious and potentially life-threatening issues,” Hanna’s attorney, Susan H. McNeil, said in a statement after court. “We are in the early stages of the process of trying to determine the facts of what occurred over the past several days. We have entered a plea of not guilty to further the process.”
Over the weekend, authorities were also trying to make sense of the alleged kidnapping.
“We’re trying to put the pieces together right now,” Hamilton Police Chief Russell Stevens told reporters after Lyndon was found Friday, according to WCVB. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and a bunch of the pieces are missing.”
A couple driving to work found Lyndon on a road in Rowley, more than eight miles from her home, just before authorities issued an Amber Alert. Tom and Marge Crosby said they spotted the girl on a leaf pile and thought she was a doll.
Lyndon’s head was shaved and she had a “big contusion” the size of a softball on her head, the couple told the Boston Herald. The tot was also naked and had cigarette burns on her body, WHDH reported.
The girl was reunited with her parents at Beverly Hospital, where officials said she was in “fair condition” before being transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital. She was released Sunday, WCVB reported.
Police arrested Hanna on Saturday morning after learning she was in the emergency room at a Salem hospital. Authorities haven’t disclosed why the suspect was there.
It’s unclear why Hanna, a newly engaged former camp counselor, would snatch and abuse her former client.
“She didn’t seem like the kind of person that could hurt anybody,” a relative of Hanna’s fiancé told The Boston Globe, adding that Hanna appeared “very mild, not an aggressive person at all.”
Indeed, Hanna’s Facebook page is littered with photos of herself beaming with friends, picking apples, and stirring coffee. Nothing about the blond beauty’s profile indicates she could be capable of something sinister.
On Facebook, Hanna indicates she’s a “counselor” and English lit student at Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts and sciences school in Wenham. She previously attended Azusa Pacific University in California and The Master’s School, a Christian prep school in Connecticut.
A Gordon College spokesman told the Globe that Hanna spent less than a semester at the school in fall 2014. That year, she also worked in a summer program at the college.
A former high school classmate in Connecticut told the newspaper that Hanna transferred to The Master’s School as a junior. “When I first met her I thought she was really nice, pretty sweet,” the acquaintance told the Globe. “She was usually very insightful when we had conversations, or in class.”
Still, the classmate claimed Hanna struggled with “body image” issues and depression.
“I didn’t expect something so severe to happen,” the former pal told the Globe. “Especially because it seemed like after high school she had more support from others, and was doing what she wanted to do… I was honestly just shocked.”
In an online babysitter ad, Hanna said she has watched kids and pets since she was 12 years old. “I am now twenty-one, with transportation, just moving to Beverly and am looking for jobs with kids and pets!” she wrote. She also indicated she was a camp counselor for five years and worked with children ages 10 to 15.
Meanwhile, the Albers family hasn’t disclosed any details about the incident.
“We have suffered a horrific ordeal,” they said in a statement Monday. “We are grateful to have our daughter back. We are extremely thankful for the incredible efforts to rescue our daughter by the Police and all emergency responders. We are extremely grateful to the kind couple who found our daughter.”
Neighbors told Fox25 they moved to the area a year ago and also have a 4-year-old daughter.
Joanie Albers is a gym teacher at Waldorf School at Moraine Farm in Beverly and once worked for the New Hampshire Audubon Society, according to a school newsletter (PDF).
A November 2014 school bulletin (PDF) showed Albers, 36, was seeking a babysitter.
“Can you Help this Gym Teacher Mom!” the ad read. “Our games and movement teacher in the lower grades, Joanie Albers, is moving in December and so needs new childcare for her 16-month-old daughter to help support her part-time teaching.”
Neighbors told New England Cable News they were shocked over the alleged abduction. It’s unlikely the loving parents would let their children wander off, said June Nichols, who lives near the Albers clan.
“Must have been someone that knew them, on the inside—knew where to go, how to do it,” Nichols told NECN. “I can’t even imagine them being associated with someone that would be that type of person.”