By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(NEW IBERIA, La.) — Two Louisiana sanitation workers are being hailed as heroes for saving a 10-year-old girl who had been abducted from a family member’s home.
The girl, Jalisa Lasalle, had gone missing from a family member’s New Iberia home Sunday between 1 and 2 p.m., according to the New Iberia Police Department. Investigators initially believed she was in “imminent danger,” and an Amber Alert detailing a gray 2012 Nissan Altima that Jalisa had last been seen getting into was issued in the middle of the night.
Pelican Waste & Debris workers Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine knew something was amiss when they spotted a silver sedan in the middle of a field about 20 miles away in St. Martin Parish while on their trash pickup route on Monday morning.
“Something told me … I said, what’s that car doing off in the field like that?” Merrick said in a video posted to Facebook Live.
They then used the garbage truck to block the car from escaping and called police, Merrick said.
“I blocked the truck in, [making] sure he couldn’t get out,” he said.
After a responding officer commended the men for their actions, Merrick began to tear up.
“She’s safe right now,” Merrick said, adding that he has a little girl of his own.
Pelican CEO Roddie Matherne praised his employees in a statement to ABC News.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Dion and Brandon,” Matherne said in an email. “In fact, All of our Pelican Waste team have been heroically working without fail during the pandemic quietly, professionally, and consistently serving the communities where we collect garbage & debris. They often respond in other ways while on the road. This was an exceptional thing that may very well have saved a little girl’s [life].”
In the video, suspect Michael Sereal, 33, can be seen being led away from the silver sedan by police. At one point, he can be heard shouting, “Why are you doing this to me?”
He is an acquaintance of one of the girl’s family members, ABC Lafayette, Louisiana, affiliate WATC-TV reported.
Sereal, of New Iberia, is currently being held at the Iberia Parish Jail without bond on charges of aggravated kidnapping of a child and failure to register as a sex offender, according to online jail records. He is listed on the New Iberia sex offender database for a conviction of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
It is unclear whether Sereal has retained an attorney.
The child was evaluated by medical personnel after she was found, according to Louisiana State Police. A photo shared on the sanitation company’s Facebook page following the rescue shows her posing next to Merrick and Antoine.
The investigation is ongoing, police said.
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