1 of 10
Matt Powers, Deseret News
A child is brought home in Sandy, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, after an attempted abduction was foiled by the child's father.

SANDY — "I think that you're going to hear that a miracle occurred here today," said Miles Holman, attorney and spokesman for a family whose 5-year-old daughter was taken from her bed early Friday.

His comments came Friday afternoon as anxiety and relief filled a Sandy neighborhood following the arrest of a man who they said broke into a home, grabbed a 5-year-old girl out of her bed and took her outside before being stopped by the girl's awakened stepfather.

The girl appeared to be physically and emotionally OK, Holman said.

"At this moment she seems pretty healthy and pretty happy," he said. "It has been a very traumatic day."

Police said there does not appear to be any prior connection between the suspect and the girl involved in the rare and random event.

"I don't think they have any idea who he was. He was not a person who was part of their lives. This seems to be something that's totally random," Holman said, identifying the parents of the child as Aaron and Stephanie Edson.

The terrifying events began about 4:30 a.m., when police say 46-year-old Troy Morley entered a house on Rembrandt Lane, went through several rooms and "rummaged through some items," according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.

He then went into the basement where he found a 5-year-old girl sleeping in her bed, the report states.

"Troy woke the child up and instructed her to come with him," according to the report. He then "seized her" from the bed and carried her upstairs and out the front door.

One neighbor said she could hear the girl scream, "No, no, no." She then saw a shadow run by her house.

The girl's parents woke up when they heard their front door opening. Her stepfather rushed outside and discovered his daughter with the man.

"When the father confronted Troy, he gave the child back to the father and fled from the scene," according to the report. During the confrontation, the girl's mother was inside making a frantic 911 call.

"There was a man in my home and he took my 5-year-old daughter," an emotional Stephanie Edson told the 911 dispatcher. "He came in my home. My daughter sleeps in the basement, and took my daughter out of the basement," she said in a quivering voice.

The distraught mother repeated several times that a stranger had walked into her house and taken her child.

"(Morley) was saying that he's messed up, and someone's going to hurt him or something. But he took my daughter from my house," she said in tears. "He said something about he was going to get shot so he took my daughter. I don't know.

"We heard the front door open and I heard (my daughter) talking," she told the dispatcher before apparently turning to her now-retrieved daughter: "Are you OK, honey?"

Police response

Responding officers from the nearby Sandy Police Department set up a perimeter in the neighborhood and began looking for the intruder. Morley entered a second house through a dog door that leads into the basement at 203 E. White River Drive, said Sandy Police Sgt. Dean Carriger.

Tina Olsen was home at the time and said she heard what she thought was her dog downstairs, so she went to investigate.

"I went downstairs, and he was crouched up kind of by the back door with no shirt on. And he just said like, 'Am I bad? Am I in trouble?' I just started screaming and ran up the stairs and told my husband, 'There's a man in the house,'" she said.

Morley ran out the door where he was confronted in a fenced backyard by officers with police K-9s. One of the dogs was sent in after him after he refused to follow the officers' commands. The dog bit Morley in the right shoulder and upper arm, according to the jail report. Officers then took him into custody, Carriger said. Morley was taken to a local hospital to be treated for dog bite injuries.

He was booked several hours later into jail for investigation of child kidnapping, burglary, trespassing, interfering with an arrest and failing to stop at the command of a law enforcement officer.

At the girl's house, reporters watched as the parents returned home with the mother clutching her daughter tightly in her arms. Through tears and still shaking, she told reporters that her daughter was OK and went inside.

Unanswered questions

Carriger said it appeared that the young girl and her house were picked completely at random. Police said the intruder apparently went through the neighborhood door-to-door until discovering an unlocked door at the Edson home.

"We don't have any information that the family was targeted," Carriger said.

But as for what Morley's motive was or what he intended to do with the child, those questions remain unanswered.

Sandy police actually began investigating Morley several hours earlier, about 1:30 a.m., when Morley walked into a hotel off 10600 South near Automall Drive and asked the desk clerk to call police because he was in "imminent danger," Carriger said.

"And then he left, just acting bizarre," he said. "(The clerk said) he was acting erratic and odd."

Morley did not tell the clerk why he believed he was in danger.

Morley gave the clerk his name but left the hotel by the time officers arrived. Later, detectives believe, Morley tried several doors before coming across the Edson residence. Stephanie Edson told the 911 dispatcher she and her husband must have fallen asleep Thursday night and forgotten to check the door.

Morley's last known address was in Roy, Carriger said. Court records show Morley filed for divorce in June, which was finalized in October. He also filed for divorce in 2010 from another woman, according to court records. He was convicted of impaired driving in 2009 and DUI in 2011, but otherwise has a minor criminal history in Utah, according to court records. Carriger said detectives were looking at whether Morley was impaired during Friday's abduction attempt.

Other cases

Law enforcement officers said a stranger walking into a home and abducting a child is an extremely rare case.

In Utah, there have been three high-profile similar incidents during the past two decades.

In 2012, 6-year-old Sierra Newbold was abducted from her bedroom, raped, beaten and thrown into a canal where she drowned. Terry Lee Black, now charged with capital murder, is accused of taking her. Black lived in a nearby apartment complex and attended the Newbolds' LDS Ward but was not known to the Newbold family.

In 2002, Brian David Mitchell broke into Elizabeth Smart's Federal Heights house through a window screen, walked into her bedroom and kidnapped her for nine months before she was found by Sandy police. Smart was 14 at the time. Mitchell was hired one time to do work around the Smart house.

In 1995, 7-year-old Rosie Tapia was kidnapped through a window in her parents' apartment while she was sleeping with her sister. A man walking his dog saw her body floating in a canal near 1900 South and 1600 West. An autopsy showed she had been sexually assaulted. Her killer has not been identified.

Of all nonfamily child abductions, only 23 percent occurred in homes or yards, according to a Department of Justice study, still cited though it is more than a decade old. Children, the study said, are more typically kidnapped from generally accessible places such as streets, parks and other public areas.

Contributing: Whitney Evans, Shara Park

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com, Twitter: whitevs7