From the moment that Crystal Merrill arrived for her overnight shift on May 18 at the 911 call and dispatch center in Fort Worth, Texas, the phone would not stop ringing.
Police were more than four hours into a manhunt for a suspect in the area and an 8-year-old girl he was accused of kidnapping. Her mother said he’d snatched the girl out of her arms during an early evening walk and thrown the child into his car. The suspect was now on the run with the little girl.
As Merrill fielded call after call, tip after tip, she said, her nerves started to get to her. A 30-year-old mother with two kids herself, ages 10 and 5, she said she couldn’t help but feel a strong connection to this particular missing-child case.
“I had heightened senses because…I’m trying to get every piece of detail and see, ‘OK, how should we process this?’” Merrill said. “’Do I just let our officers know or do we actually send a call up and we need to go check this out?’ Every call was like that.”
A few hours later, however, at 2 a.m., a 911 call from a good Samaritan gave Merrill pause. She didn’t know then that it was a tip that would play a key role in the case.