Lifestyle & Human Interest

Pastor Who Helped Rescue Kidnapped 8-Year-Old Says God Led Him to Abductor’s Hotel


It is every parent’s worst nightmare: You are walking with your child down the street when a stranger in a car pulls up, takes your child and drives away.

This terrifying chain of events became reality for an 8-year-old and her mother this past weekend in the Ryan Place neighborhood of Fort Worth, Texas.

Salem Sabatka and her mom were walking down the street on May 18, when what was reported to be a gray Ford Five Hundred pulled up next to them. Fifty-one-year-old Michael Webb allegedly grabbed Salem and took her into the car.

A neighbor’s doorbell camera captured Salem’s mother attempt to fight Webb in the car, but she was pushed out and onto the ground as he drove alway.

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While the scenario was off to a grim beginning, God was already working to bring Salem home safe and sound.

Jeff King, a local pastor and friend of Salem’s family, received a text message right after the abduction that would change everything.

“I was sitting at home with my wife when a friend texted and said that our friends’ daughter had been kidnapped,” King told KTRK-TV. “All I could think is what are we going to do to help?”

King and a friend immediately went to the scene of the crime, where a plainclothes officer gave him directions on where to look.

“He just said … look at parks, apartment buildings and hotels,” King told KXAS-TV.

Salem’s kidnapping took place at 6:38 pm, and within the next couple of hours, numerous social media posts and photos were circulating of both the suspect’s car and Salem herself. In addition to the local police, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Department of Homeland Security pitched in to search for the missing girl.

King and a friend searched the area until midnight when they received a tip from social media directing them to a hotel in the Forest Hill area of Forth Worth.

There was no sign of the suspect’s car.

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Even though the importance of finding Salem grew with each passing minute, God was about to intervene in a big way. As King and his fellow searcher moved on from the first hotel, they drove past the Wood Springs Suites and spontaneously felt led to turn in.

“We had been checking parks all night and this was the second hotel we checked,” King told KTRK.

“I was just driving on the access road. It was right there and so I just kind of hit the break and turned in.”

It was there that they found what appeared to be the suspect’s car that they had been looking for all night.

King called the police, who quickly converged on the hotel and determined that both the suspect and Salem were inside. They were able to rescue the girl before any harm came to her.

“It was a crazy moment. I asked police, ‘Did I hear that right? Did they find her? Is she safe?’” King said. “Then finally one officer said, ‘Yes sir, they have her.’”

King credits God with leading them to the hotel.

“God literally led us to this place. It was not on my itinerary, I was not trying to go there, we just drove by. It was divine intervention, 100 percent,” he said.

After Webb was taken into custody, police allowed King to be the person to call Salem’s family with the good news. The response from law enforcement and community alike was one of pure joy.

“I feel like God allowed me to be a tool and that’s it,” King said.

At the media conference in Ryan Place, King led a prayer and was thanked by Forth Worth Mayor Betsy Price, as well as the police chief and family.

“I have two boys and I would have wanted as many eyes looking out for my boys as possible,” King said.

Salem’s family is not yet ready to make a public statement about the ordeal, although Salem’s grandmother told KXAS-TV that the family is deeply grateful for the community support.

In celebration of Salem’s safe return, a walk was held in her neighborhood on Sunday evening.

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