DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — New details have emerged about the intense, nationwide search for a Denton 14-year-old that ended with her making it home, an officer injured and a suspect dead.
For anyone who had been following this case over the past 11 days, there have been a lot of twists and turns. Here’s a timeline of events that led to the safe return of Savannah.
Thursday, Feb. 11, Savannah’s dad said goodbye to her as she starts remote learning, and he heads to work.
About an hour and a half later, she logs off virtual learning. Savannah never shows up to pick up her sister from the bus stop.
“After she didn’t pick up her younger sibling at the bus stop, she was reported missing and we got into action at that time,” Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons said.
Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, a Silver Alert is issued for Savannah. By Monday, it’s upgraded to a national Amber Alert.
As people here at home held vigils and search parties praying for Savannah’s safe return, authorities were working against the clock. Eventually, all that work led them to the name of their suspect.
“We quickly identified an alias online,” said Sgt. David Blake, with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. “It was a matter of identifying who, in the real world, this individual was.”
After that happened, it was a bit of a waiting game.
“We were following every single lead, waiting for an opportunity where he’s made a mistake and give us an opportunity to locate him,” Simmons said.
Investigators said William Ice’s mistake happened Saturday, Feb. 20, when he stopped in Lonoke, Arkansas, around 8 p.m.
“I can’t speculate on the reason why he stopped at Lonoke other than maybe to get something to eat at one of the restaurants,” said Chief Matthew Edwards, with Lonoke police.
Officers there had heard a description over dispatch radio of Ice’s vehicle and that it might be disguised in a different color.
“They checked a local of McDonald’s and saw a couple of Durango’s there and got up with one of them and as soon as they had gotten out, they started receiving gun fire,” Edwards said.
The shooting left one Lonoke officer injured.
“He was shot multiple times and the injuries he sustained are non-life-threatening,” Edwards said.
Ice got back in his vehicle and onto a highway before crashing into a snowbank.
Authorities in Arkansas said by this time Savannah had emerged from Ice’s car and into state troopers’ custody.
Ice was found dead inside his vehicle from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Savannah is now finally back home.
“She was transported back here to Davidson County, she went to the Dragonfly Child Advocacy Center over in Davie County for a full forensic interview and medical exam,” Blake said.
While Savannah is back in Denton, some in the community took to social media questioning the lack of transparency throughout the investigation from law enforcement.
Simmons said the lack of details given to the public was in the best interest of Savannah at the time. Based off Ice’s past, authorities said they believed it would’ve done more harm in their goal of getting Savannah back home.
Ice had been previously arrested and made bail on other child sex charges. He was wanted by authorities in Pennsylvania for that.
In the past, Ice had eluded police — nearly running them over in other states; he had also skipped out on court dates.
“We were like one step behind trying to catch this guy. He was very elusive and very smart, intelligent in how he did it,” Simmons said.
While the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office said they knew Ice’s identity and vehicle far before that information was released to the public, they felt like not disclosing it would make Ice feel he was not being targeted.
“We felt like the more he thought we were after him, the more endangered she would be. So, the leads we had we were doing a good job on his trail to stay with him and find him,” Simmons said. “We were ready to shift at moment’s notice and change the way we did this and ready to drop that information, but we located him.”
The sheriff said their agency had been keeping tabs on Ice for days before he was discovered with Savannah in Arkansas.
The other scary thing is that the FBI discovered Ice had been forming relationships with roughly a dozen other Triad-area kids — mostly middle school-aged.