Today Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson reaffirmed that Caitlyn Virts is safe and that Baltimore County Police, Baltimore County's Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI will provide all available resources to help her and her siblings.
Caitlyn's mother, Bobbie Jo Cortez, 36, was found murdered Thursday morning in her bedroom in the 3100 block of Ardee Way in Dundalk. Caitlyn's father, Timothy Virts -- who fled with Caitlyn after the killing and was found in South Carolina last night -- is charged with first-degree murder. He will be extradited to face prosecution in Maryland; the extradition process can take weeks.
At a press briefing this morning, Chief Johnson said that the FBI Baltimore Division's participation in the investigation was pivotal in locating Timothy and Caitlyn Virtz. Representatives of FBI's Baltimore Division, including Special Agent in Charge Steve Vogt, participated in this morning's briefing.
Johnson said he was "incredibly relieved" that Caitlyn has been found safe, and credited citizen "keyboard crimefighters" with paying attention to the search and helping law enforcement by calling in "thousands" of tips.
Here is a summary of the information Chief Johnson provided:
Police in Florence, South Carolina found Caitlyn last night, with her father, at the Colonial Motel, just off of I-95. She appears to be unharmed.
"Of course," Johnson said, "this child and her siblings have endured a terrible trauma and a terrible tragedy. Baltimore County Government and other agencies will provide all the resources possible to help them deal with the aftermath."
Baltimore County social services personnel are working with social services personnel in South Carolina, and Caitlyn will return to Maryland in the near future. State agencies will be involved in helping with decisions about the children's future.
Sequence of Events
Police responded just after 9 a.m. Thursday to the home on Ardee Way, where Bobbie Jo Cortez was found, murdered, in her bedroom. Bobbie Jo's daughter, Caitlyn was missing. Police quickly determined that Timothy Virts, Caitlyn’s father, had taken her and fled in a 1999 Dodge Durango. An Amber Alert was issued Thursday morning.
Between Thursday morning and the time Virts was found in South Carolina last night, BCoPD detectives worked round the clock fielding and tracking down hundreds of tips and leads. None of these tips and leads panned out until yesterday afternoon. A critical turning point, Johnson said, was the FBI’s entrance into this case. The FBI helped broaden this search and extend the reach of the Amber Alert and other notification tools.
Late yesterday afternoon, we received credible information that Virts was in North Carolina. This gave BCoPD for the first time an idea that he was headed south.
Last night, BCoPD received notification from the Florence (SC) Police Dept that the Dodge Durango driven by Virtz had been located at the Colonial Motel. Johnson referred inquiries about the apprehension of Timothy Virts to Florence Police and thanked them for the crucial role they played in this case. Johnson noted that Florence police reported that Virts was arrested without incident.
The investigation into Bobbie Jo Cortez' murder remains active, and BCoPD are not providing additional details at this time.
FBI officials said that a charge of unlawful flight against Virts likely will be dropped; an unlawful flight warrant primarily is a tool allowing the FBI to arrest a wanted suspect anywhere in the U.S.
"This was a situation whose successful outcome is a direct result of the emergency notification tools that helped the public and other law enforcement agencies identify Timothy Virts and the Dodge Durango," Johnson said.
Johnson said BCoPD was told by police in Florence that a clerk at the Colonial Motel had seen notification about Caitlyn Virts’ disappearance on Facebook and contacted the authorities..
"This case really illustrates the value of multiple platforms for notifying people of emergency situations – in this case, the Amber Alert, mainstream media, social media, the billboards and posters distributed by the FBI," Johnson said. " Citizens who follow these notifications and call in tips truly are keyboard crime fighters, and we are immensely grateful for their participation in this crisis."
Johnson also thanked the many law enforcement partners who assisted with this case: the FBI, Florence (SC) Police Department, Maryland State Police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the region.