TBI: Man accused of kidnapping 4-year-old taken into custody in Memphis

Courtesy: Kimberly Wheeler /Local Memphis
Courtesy: Kimberly Wheeler /Local Memphis

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A man was taken into custody in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday after he allegedly kidnapped a 4-year-old girl in Florida on Saturday.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said West Wild Hogs, 31, was found with Rebecca Lewis, 4, outside the Baptist East Hospital around 2 p.m. Monday.

Rebecca was found safe after an employee recognized them and contacted hospital security, authorities said. She was taken back into the hospital for an evaluation.

Rebecca Lewis; West Wild Hogs (Courtesy: AMBER ALert)
Rebecca Lewis; West Wild Hogs (Courtesy: AMBER ALert)

Hogs, who legally changed his name from Matthew Clark Pybus, was taken into custody in the parking lot as he returned to his vehicle. It’s unclear what charges he may face at this time.

The AMBER Alert was launched over the weekend after Rebecca’s family reported her missing from the Lazy Day Retreat RV camp on Highway 98 in Florida. She was last seen at 9 a.m. that day when her 16-year-old sister saw her sleeping in bed.

The sister fell back asleep and woke up around 9:45 a.m. At that time, Rebecca was gone.

Authorities say Hogs is a long-time family friend who hadn’t seen them in two years when he was asked to leave their home for pulling a gun on a family member.

Then on Friday, Hogs allegedly showed at Rebecca’s grandmother’s house on Friday in Polk City, Florida. Rebecca was taken less than 24 hours later.

The AMBER Alert was expanded through most of the southeast, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Video showed the pair at a McDonald’s in Florida on Saturday just after the girl went missing. Click here to view the video on your mobile device.

According to authorities, West Hogs and Rebecca were seen again later that day at a gas station in Forsythe, Georgia, just off of Interstate 75, around 6:30 p.m. Surveillance images showed the two together and Rebecca appeared to be in good health.

Rebecca and the man accused of kidnapping her were last seen in Nashville at 2:30 a.m. at Daily's convenience store at Antioch Pike and Interstate 24. (Courtesy: TBI)
Rebecca and the man accused of kidnapping her were last seen in Nashville at 2:30 a.m. at Daily’s convenience store at Antioch Pike and Interstate 24. (Courtesy: TBI)

The two were then believed to be spotted in the area of Cove Lake State Park, in Campbell County, Tennessee, which is near Interstate 75 close to Tennessee/Kentucky border.

At that time, the TBI expanded Florida’s AMBER Alert to East Tennessee.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida says sometime on Sunday between 9 and 10 p.m. Central, a park ranger reported seeing a man and child matching Hogs and Rebecca’s description at the park. It’s unclear if that sighting was confirmed.

Several hours later, they were spotted in Nashville overnight at a Daily’s convenience store at 2:30 a.m. off Antioch Pike and Interstate 24. Officials say they used a bank card connected to Hogs and surveillance video to verify the sighting.

That was the last official sighting before Hogs was taken into custody Monday afternoon in Memphis.

The investigation is ongoing and a motive for the kidnapping was not immediately known. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd of Florida previously said Hogs suffers from depression and bipolar disorder.

Witness speaks after spotting Hogs at Antioch gas station

News 2’s Brett Martin spoke with Tashaun Jones later Monday. He was behind Hogs and Rebecca at the Antioch Daily’s where they were spotted around 2:30 a.m.

Jones said he didn’t recognize the duo until after the AMBER Alert was issued later in the day. He said he’s grateful Rebecca is safe, but he wishes he could’ve done more to end the manhunt sooner.

“When we got into the store, he went directly to the bathroom holding her hand the whole time,” Jones told News 2.

The store clerk also said Hogs bought sandwiches before leaving.

“It was definitely not normal when I seen a little girl at this time of the morning. You know, why is she not in bed?” Jones questioned of the sighting.

He said he’s thankful he went with his gut feeling when something felt off, and he called police when he saw the news hours later.

Jones still says he wish he knew sooner.

“If there was an AMBER Alert, I would’ve stuck around or followed the car. I didn’t see anything,” he told News 2.

The AMBER Alert in Tennessee

The TBI was asked by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to issue an alert on Sunday. After a sighting in East Tennessee, a regional AMBER Alert was issued early Monday morning before the TBI stretched it statewide after the sighting in Nashville was reported before 9:30 a.m.

Since the TBI felt there was no specific information the child was in Tennessee at the time, they did not able to issue an alert right way. However, the bureau did issue a Be-On-The-Lookout notice for law enforcement.

We are confident we have done everything possible – within the bounds of our established policies and practices – to assist authorities in Florida, given the information available to us throughout this event. We remain in constant contact with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and stand prepared to assist in any way as this ongoing search effort continues,” said the TBI in a statement Monday.

Didn’t receive the AMBER Alert? Click here to sign up. 

News 2 learned the U.S. Department of Justice has guidelines on when to issue an AMBER Alert. Here are the 5 criteria that apply across the country:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.