Sex offender charged with kidnapping girl in Salisbury, Md.

Thomas James Leggs, left, has been charged with kidnapping and burglary in the disappearance of Sarah Haley Foxwell, 11.
Thomas James Leggs, left, has been charged with kidnapping and burglary in the disappearance of Sarah Haley Foxwell, 11. (AP/National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Md. Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 25, 2009

A registered sex offender has been charged with kidnapping an 11-year-old Salisbury, Md., girl who went missing from her bedroom Tuesday night, authorities said. She had not been found as of Thursday evening.

Sarah Haley Foxwell went to her room about 9:30 wearing fuzzy red pajama bottoms with Christmas trees on them and a pink John Deere T-shirt, Wicomico County sheriff's officials said. She was gone in the morning when her brother went to check on her. Sarah, the brother and a sister live with an aunt, who has other children.

Thomas J. Leggs, 30, a registered sex offender, has been charged with kidnapping and burglary and was in custody, authorities said. Officials said that he is Sarah's aunt's ex-boyfriend and that their relationship ended about a month ago.

Wicomico Sheriff Michael A. Lewis, who was leading a massive search Thursday night, said he was hopeful that Sarah would be found alive.

"We have faith. We want to bring this little girl home to her family," Lewis said. "Please ask people to pray for Sarah and her family."

Lewis said interviews with the children in the house, as well as other evidence, convinced investigators that Leggs abducted Sarah. Lewis said that Leggs, who works as a laborer in a wood and counter business, was refusing to cooperate.

Leggs, who authorities said lives in Salisbury in an outbuilding on property his parents own, is registered as a sex offender in Maryland and Delaware.

According to Maryland's sex offender registry, Leggs has a conviction for a third-degree sex offense. Wicomico officials said the victim in that crime was a young girl.

According to a Delaware Web site, Leggs is a "high-risk" offender who was convicted in 2001 of raping a teenager.

Hundreds of searchers fanned out Thursday over several miles of fields and dense woods, looking for any sign of Sarah. Officials said the search area included ponds and frozen fields in addition to residential areas. Police from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts were assisting in the search.

Authorities were asking for information from anyone who might have seen Leggs's vehicle, a 2003 champagne-colored Dodge Ram pickup, between 11 p.m. Tuesday and 11 a.m. Wednesday. Officials ask that anyone with information about Sarah's disappearance call the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office at 410-548-4891.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company