Nailla Robinson, the 5-year-old girl audaciously abducted from her West Philadelphia kindergarten class a day earlier, was found early Tuesday half-dressed and shivering - but safe - in a rain-soaked Upper Darby playground.
Nelson Mandela Myers, a sanitation worker who heard her cries about 4:40 a.m. while on his way to his job, rushed to comfort her and called 911 - and will receive the $10,000 reward offered by Mayor Nutter for her safe recovery, police said.
Still being sought Tuesday night: the kidnapper, dressed in black Muslim garb that revealed only her eyes, who walked into Bryant School and persuaded employees to let her walk away with the unsuspecting girl.
Philadelphia School District officials said they were investigating what a spokesman Monday called a "complete breakdown in protocol."
Nailla's mother, Latifah Abdur-Rashid, carried the girl into her house on South Fourth Street about 2:15 p.m.
Asim Abdur-Rashid, 61, Nailla's grandfather, said she was traumatized, but "she's a strong little girl. She's holding up like a soldier."
The grandfather said he believed that more than one person was involved but that the family had no idea who abducted Nailla.
"We thank the people that found her, and we just thank God that she was returned safely," he said.
Nailla, wearing only a black T-shirt, was huddled under a playground slide at 69th Street and Patterson Avenue when Myers, 27, heard a tiny voice cry out for help as he was walking to the 69th Street Terminal on his way to work in Norristown.
He wrapped the girl in his coat and called 911.
"She was just shivering and saying she was cold," Myers said.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said he did not know how long Nailla had been outside. It was about 37 degrees and raw from heavy rain overnight when Nailla was found.
Explaining his actions, Myers said: "I just wanted to do the same thing someone would have done for my child. I have a 5-year-old daughter."
He added, "When I picked her up, she just reminded me of my daughter so much because she was the same size."
He comforted the little girl until police arrived.
Monday night, Nutter authorized a request from Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey to post a $10,000 reward for information in finding Nailla. The information also required an arrest, a spokesman later clarified.
That changed Tuesday evening.
"The finding of this young girl and actually making her safe" was the primary focus of the reward, said Mark McDonald, Nutter's press secretary.
The mayor decided that Myers should receive the reward because he "did the right thing," McDonald said.
Nailla was taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for evaluation of exposure to the cold. She showed "no overt signs" of injury but was being examined for physical and sexual assault, said Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit.
Detectives did not immediately interview the girl, Chitwood said. Rather, their goal was to get her checked out.
"Right now, the child is safe," Chitwood said.
Darby said his investigators were "working nonstop" on the case.
Police sources said that after Nailla was abducted from the school, the woman took her to a residence where a man was also present.
Nailla's clothes were removed. She was blindfolded and hidden under a bed.
Police sources said it appears the abductors might have dropped Nailla off at the playground. She was then told to call someone for help. The girl told Myers that she had been stolen, Darby said.
Nailla told her family that she had been taken to a house and later released in a park, her grandfather said.
Said Chitwood: "It had to be an animal to do something like this, to abduct a child and leave her in the park with just a T-shirt."
Nailla was taken by an unknown woman who called herself "Tiffany." The woman signed Nailla out of the school, on Cedar Avenue at 60th Street, about 8:50 a.m.
Police said the woman told someone at the school that she was supposed to pick up Nailla. She then signed the school log, presumably with a false name. The woman went to Nailla's classroom and asked for the child by name, Darby said.
"She indicated that she was the child's mother" and was taking the girl to breakfast, he said.
School District officials said the incident violated school procedure because any adult taking a child from class must show identification and be on a list as a verified parent or guardian.
School officials did not discover until 3 p.m. that an unauthorized person had picked up the girl.
Nailla, a 4-foot African American girl with curly hair and glasses, was seen on the school's surveillance video leaving with the unidentified woman.
"The child was actually targeted," Darby said. "This was not a random act."
The woman knew which classroom to go to and knew Nailla's name, he said. She left the school on foot with the girl in tow.