FORT WORTH Texas (KLTV) - A Tyler man who kidnapped an 8-year-old girl in Fort Worth in May has been sentenced to life in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
The press release stated that Michael Webb, 51, was convicted by a federal jury in September after a two-day trial. It took the jury less than 10 minutes to convict Webb.
“We believe that justice has been served in this case. And we are thankful for and agree with the Judge’s decision to sentence him to life in prison,” U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox said in the press release. “My hope is that this family and this community will find solace in knowing that he will never be able to harm another little child again.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the Dallas field office said a dangerous predator is going to spend the rest of his life behind bars because “law enforcement and citizen volunteers worked tirelessly to safely bring the victim home.”
“The FBI’s North Texas Child Exploitation Task Force is committed to assisting our law enforcement partners in the protection of the most vulnerable in our community,”DeSarno said. “Today’s sentence sends an important message to all predators. We will not allow any crime against children to go unpunished.”
During the trial, the jury learned that Webb grabbed Salem Sabatka, the little girl, as she and her mother were walking down Fort Worth’s 6th Avenue on the evening of May 18. Neighborhood video cameras showed the victim’s mother getting knocked to the ground Webb’s car drove away, the press release stated.
A nearby resident’s doorbell surveillance camera captured video of the mother falling from the car, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She then ran down the street, yelling, “Help me! Help me, please! My daughter just got kidnapped!”
“The victim’s mother testified, describing her daughter as ‘brave, strong, and smart’ before describing for the jury the horrific details of the ‘physical fight’ for her daughter’s life,” the press release stated.
In a three-hour recorded interview, Webb confessed to the kidnapping. He told authorities that after he successfully fought off the little girl’s mother, he drove to a church parking lot, that press release.
Webb also allegedly admitted to taking the girl to Forest Hill’s WoodSprings Suite hotel, where he carried the child into a room and held her captive.
“It was around midnight when a tip led Forest Hill police officers to Webb’s room. Shortly before their arrival, Webb admitted to threatening the girl, and hiding the girl from law enforcement in a small laundry basket,” the press release stated. “The officers, having visually inspected the room, left without finding the child.”
At the same time, friends, volunteers, and law enforcement canvassed the city in search of the little girl. A family friend spotted Webb’s Ford sedan and called 911, the press release stated.
“Fort Worth Police Department responded and confirmed that there appeared to be blood on the front passenger seat,” the press release stated. “Law enforcement then acted quickly to gain entry into the hotel room, rescuing the victim who was found hidden in the laundry basket.”
According to the press release, officers announced the good news on their radios.
“We got her. We got her! He’s in custody; we have her,” the officers said.
“The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s North Texas Child Exploitation Task Force, the Fort Worth Police Department’s Major Case Unit Taskforce, which includes representatives of local law enforcement around the region, Homeland Security Investigations and the Texas Department of Public Safety,” the press release stated. “U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aisha Saleem, the District’s Project Safe Childhood Coordinator, are prosecuting the case. U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor presided over the trial.”
East Texas News learned earlier this year that Webb previously had felony charges dismissed in Smith County.
Court records show Michael Webb was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sexual assault in June 2018.
Smith County Assistant District Attorney Richard Vance filed a motion to dismiss those charges.
According to court documents, the alleged victim moved to Arizona, could not be reached and filed an affidavit of non-prosecution. He said the alleged victim also had felony warrants out for her arrest.
“At that point, we had an uncooperative victim, which we do have often, and we still prosecute, but this one who also had active warrants was in another state,” Vance said. “We had filed three different continuances with the court to find this victim.”