UPDATE: The Clayton County teen abducted from her home early Tuesday morning has been found, Channel 2 Action News is reporting.
ORIGINAL STORY: Ayvani Hope Perez remained missing early Wednesday, more than 24 hours after being kidnapped by armed men who barged into her family’s home.
When the two gunmen burst into the Ellenwood home early Tuesday, the mother tried unsuccessfully to hide her two teenage children to protect them.
Tuesday evening, family members wre trying to raise a $10,000 ransom to give the men who kidnapped her youngest, 14-year-old Ayvani, after their demand for cash and jewelry went unmet in the robbery attempt.
Rarely heard of kidnap ransom demands came from two people who law enforcement officials say were strangers to the family before the home invasion.
There remained a heavy police presence Wednesday in the neighborhood just east of I-675 where Tuesday’s home invasion and kidnapping occurred.
Two Clayton County police officers stationed at the end of Brookgate Drive were stopping all vehicles and only allowing residents to proceed up the street and closer to the victim’s home.
Media, which included crews from Good Morning America and the Today show, were being kept well away from the home by officers.
Additional police vehicles, including a mobile command center, were parked in front of the victim’s home.
A few neighbors on their way to catch the school bus spoke briefly to reporters about Ayvani.
“We talked once or twice,” 11-year-old Zakar McCullough said. “I would see her in her driveway, playing with her brother and her dog. We talked about normal kid stuff.”
He said he didn’t talk to Ayvani much “because she was real shy.”
“I hope she gets home safe,” he said. “I will pray for her family.”
Griselda Torres, 15, called Ayvani “a sweet girl” who loves horses.
“Hopefully she’s okay,” she said. “She’s too young and I know she’s scared right now.”
Clayton County police Lt. Marc Richards issued the following statement late Wednesday morning:
“The Clayton County Police Department would like to express its sincere appreciation for the outpouring of support we have received as we steadfastly work toward bringing Ayvani home safely to her family. Our efforts have not waned. We are committed to the task at hand.
To our law enforcement family, remain vigilant.
To our media partners, continue to put the message out.
To the community, the Tip Line to call with information is 770-477-3513.
To the perpetrators of this heinous act, release Ayvani unharmed.”
Tuesday evening, more than 150 people gathered in a circle and held hands in prayer at the candle-light vigil at Dutchtown High School in Hampton. Many teens there – holding posters with Ayvani’s name and pictures of them with her – were her class mates from Dutchtown Middle School.
“I possibly have a chance to never see her again,” former classmate Nina Richardson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “On so many levels, it just feels so unreal.”
Ayvani’s aunt, Suky Guerrero, told the AJC Tuesday that family members were trying to get the money together to secure the teen’s release. The AJC confirmed the ransom demand with a law enforcement official close to the investigation who was unauthorized to speak publicly.
Guerrero said she understood the family was still waiting for the money to be delivered late Tuesday.
Guerrero took her brother, Ayvani’s father, Alberto Perez, 47, to the airport in El Paso, Texas, to fly to Atlanta on Tuesday morning. “My brother doesn’t have a clue. He doesn’t have any money like that.”
Perez, she said, wanted to be by the side of his ex-wife, Ayvani’s mother Maria Perez.
“He was devastated, not knowing what to do,” Guerrero said.
Clayton County Police said the home invasion and subsequent abduction seemed random.
“It didn’t appear that they knew each other,” police spokesman Officer Phong Nguyen said of the suspects and victims. “They just moved in about a month ago.”
The FBI and GBI are aiding in the search for Ayvani, and authorities are asking for the public’s help to locate the men who drove away in a gray Dodge.
The GBI has released sketches of the suspects. Anyone with information on the girl or the suspects should call a special tips hotline at 770-477-3513 or Clayton County police at 678-610-4781.
“This is the time for the Clayton community and the community as a whole to come together,” Clayton County Police Chief Gregory Porter told reporters. “We’re trying to make sure that we bring her some safely.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, a quiet buzz took over the Brook Gate subdivision just off I-675 where Ayvani lives.
As residents and youth who would be Ayvani’s class mates returned home from school, they were greeted by a phalanx of police and law enforcement and representatives from both local and national media.
Some said they were stunned and frightened.
“It’s very scary,” said Breyana Walker, a 16-year-old junior at Morrow High School.
“I’m so terrified,” said Walker, who lives just down the street from Ayvani.
“I feel like I need someone here with me,” she said. “It could happen to anybody. I don’t know what to do.”
Maties Otalis, a father of four, who has lived in the neighborhood for two years said he was stunned by the kidnapping.
“We always have police around this area,” he said. “I don’t expect such to happen in my neighborhood. I feel like moving out of this area.”
Toni Hill, another resident, said neighbors stay to themselves in the area but Tuesday morning’s incident will make her more vigilant.
“This situation is just terrifying. We thought we lived in the same neighborhood but we don’t know what’s going on here,” Hill said.
- Staff writers Mike Morris, and Rhonda Cook and staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.
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