KEISHA GAITHER'S words tore through the thick air at Northwest Detective Division yesterday. They tore through the headlines about her daughter's abduction and the national broadcasts featuring the chilling video of her kidnapping.
"Carlesha, I love you. I know you are on your way home. Just fight. Just fight. Come on," Gaither said. "All you got to do is just get out. I got you. Just come home. Just come home."
As the reward for the arrest and conviction of Carlesha Freeland-Gaither's abductor rose to $47,000 yesterday, police announced that her debit card had been used by an unknown man at a stand-alone bank in Aberdeen, Md., about 6 a.m. Monday, less than nine hours after her abduction from a Germantown street.
Late last night, police released two new videos related to the abduction: The first one more clearly shows the abductor pulling his car onto Coulter Street from Greene, following Carlesha and approaching her near the corner, where he grabbed her.
In the second video, a man authorities are calling a person of interest in the case is seen wearing a black hooded jacket and black pants inside a Shell gas station convenience store in Maryland. Police sources could not confirm whether the man is the same person captured on surveillance video using Carlesha's debit card at a Maryland ATM.
Given the new information, Carlesha's family had several theories about the identity of her abductor, chiefly, that it may have been a boy who was obsessed with Carlesha when she attended high school in Maryland.
"There were some gray people in her past," said Carlesha's grandmother, Ana Mulero. "One in particular."
Carlesha, 22, was abducted by an unknown man on Coulter Street near Greene just after 9:30 p.m. Sunday. She was returning home from visiting her godson and had gotten off a bus a few blocks away when her abductor approached her on Greene Street and pulled her down Coulter Street to his car.
A surveillance camera captured the disturbing struggle and Carlesha's valiant attempts to fight for her life. Cops said she lost her glasses and cellphone during the fight and even kicked out a window of her captor's car before he drove off with her in the back seat.
She has not been seen since, except on missing-person fliers papering her neighborhood and in news reports across the country.
Philadelphia police, the FBI and Carlesha's family held a news conference at Northwest Detectives yesterday, where Chief Inspector Dennis Wilson said that police's "fresh lead" is the use of Carlesha's debit card at 6:01 a.m. Monday at a PNC Bank in Aberdeen, Md., just off the Interstate 95 exit.
While bank surveillance footage shows a man using the card, the photos released by police are blurry, at best, and do not offer a clear picture of the suspect.
Wilson said Philadelphia police are working with Maryland State Police and the FBI in the active abduction investigation.
The FBI special agent in charge for Philadelphia, Christian Zajac, said the bureau is leveraging all of its available resources to find Carlesha.
Zajac also announced that the FBI is putting up a $25,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of Carlesha's abductor. That's in addition to a $10,000 reward from the city, a $5,000 reward from the Fraternal Order of Police, a $5,000 reward from the Philadelphia Credit Union and a $2,000 reward from the Citizens Crime Commission.
At least 30 members of Carlesha's family attended yesterday's news conference and offered new information about her earlier life.
Mulero, with whom Carlesha lived from age 4 to 19, said she moved to Maryland with Carlesha when Carlesha was in eighth grade. Carlesha returned to Philadelphia three years ago to be around her family and to pursue a career as a certified nursing assistant, Mulero said.
However, when Carlesha was attending high school in Maryland, Mulero said a young boy Carlesha met at a jazz concert took such an interest in her that he showed up at Mulero's door with his grandparents asking to take Carlesha out.
"He always looked suspicious to me," she said. "That was one of her friends I was always wary of."
Mulero said even after Carlesha moved back to Philly, the boy twice appeared at her door wanting to know how he could get in touch with Carlesha. She said she believed he was obsessed with her granddaughter.
Gaither, Carlesha's mother, said that the boy was "very aggressive with my daughter" and he continually wanted her to send him naked pictures of herself, which she never did. Both Gaither and Mulero said Carlesha did not date the boy.
"I wouldn't call it a relationship," Gaither said. "He just liked her a lot."
Wilson declined to say if the man was a person of interest but he did say police are "looking into every lead."
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Carlesha or the identity of her captor is asked to call Northwest Detectives at 215-548-4756 or the Police Department's tip line at 215-686-8477.
-Staff writer Morgan Zalot contributed to this report.