Man describes finding 5-year-old victim on playground

Nelson Mandela Myers, center, holds his child, Gary, right, while talking with reporters at Upper Darby Police Dept. in Upper Darby, Pa., on January 15, 2013. (DAVID MAIALETTI/Staff Photographer)

Nelson Mandela Myers' daily commute from his Upper Darby home to his job in Norristown began at 4 a.m. with a walk along 69th Street to the transit terminal.

On Jan. 15, 2013, Myers started out 20 minutes late, and never made it.

It was pitch dark, Myers recalled Thursday, and there were no cars on the road or other people walking. As he passed a playground at Ruskin Lane, Myers said, he heard a voice calling from under a sliding board, "saying, 'Help me,' three times."

Nineteen hours after being abducted from her West Philadelphia kindergarten classroom at Bryant School, a 5-year-old girl had been found.

Myers, 28, who was hailed as a Good Samaritan and received a $10,000 reward for the girl's rescue, recounted his experience for a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury hearing the trial of Christine Regusters.

Regusters, 21, who is said to have targeted the 5-year-old after seeing her at the West Philadelphia after-school program where she was a teacher assistant, is charged with kidnapping the child and sexually assaulting her.

The girl, now 7, testified Wednesday but was unable to give many details about her abductor or what happened.

That made the testimony of Myers and Delaware County paramedic Jonathan Serbin important. Both were with the girl shortly after she was abandoned, half-naked, in the Upper Darby park. They corroborated the girl's words.

"Somebody stole me," Myers said the shivering girl told him after he lifted her over the playground fence. She complained of the cold - 39 degrees in drizzle - and he covered her with his hoodie and overcoat.

Myers testified that he held the girl while he dialed 911. Then he and the jury listened as Assistant District Attorney Erin O'Brien played the recording of the conversation involving the girl, Myers, and a police dispatcher.

"I'm 5," the girl's quavering voice says. She then spells her name for the dispatcher.

"Are you hurt?" the dispatcher asks and Myers repeats the question for her.

"Yes," comes the reply.

The dispatcher tries to find out where she hurts and the child, in frustration, cries out: "I'm scared that I'm never going to find my way home!"

Myers said he did not know who the girl was or that an Amber Alert had been issued for her about eight hours earlier. "I don't watch the news," he added.

Serbin, who rode in the ambulance that transported the girl to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said she told him that a woman in Muslim garb had taken her from school to a house.

When he asked the girl if she had been touched, Serbin said she replied yes, in her "private parts."

In addition to the testimony of Myers and Serbin, the jury on Wednesday heard from the girl's mother, who testified about her daughter's post-abduction descriptions, and listened to a January 2013 recording the mother made of a conversation they had at Children's Hospital.

In that audio, the girl describes her abductor, a teenage girl named "China," and the photo of a man whom China told the girl had molested her.

Prosecutors alleged that only Regusters - whose childhood nickname was "China" - kidnapped and assaulted the child and that she concocted the other personas to confuse her.

Regusters' attorney, W. Fred Harrison Jr., has argued that there is no direct evidence linking her to the crime and that several other people who lived with her in her aunt's Walton Avenue home in West Philadelphia - where the sexual assault occurred - could have been responsible.

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