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'Person of interest' in Missouri abduction shoots self

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Man shot himself when police approached
  • Man is wanted for questioning in abduction of 4-year-old
  • Man in critical condition Wednesday night, Missouri State Patrol says
  • A tip led police to town north of St. Louis
  • Family "ecstatic" over girl's safe return

(CNN) -- A man police wanted to question in the abduction of a 4-year-old Missouri girl shot himself as investigators approached him, authorities in St. Louis reported Wednesday.

The girl, Alisa Maier, was found alive Tuesday night in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton, about 70 miles south of her Mississippi River hometown of Louisiana, Missouri. Her parents identified her from a photograph sent by police there, her grandfather, Roy Harrison, said Wednesday night.

"You couldn't miss the big brown eyes," Harrison told HLN's "Nancy Grace."

But the search went on for the man who abducted her, who was seen driving a dark-colored, four-door sedan with missing wheel covers and a loud muffler. A tip led police to the town of Hawk Point, about 45 miles south of Louisiana, where police found a car parked outside a home that roughly matched that description, Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum said.

Before police could speak to the man, "He pulled out a gun and shot himself." Nothum said.

"We are not saying this is our suspect," he added. "We are saying he is a person of interest." Investigators are still treating the case as open, and will continue to take tips until the facts are nailed down, he said.

Video: Girl is found, hunt for abductor is on
Video: Missing 4-year-old girl found alive
Video: 4-year-old snatched from front yard

There were preliminary reports after the shooting that the man had died, but Nothum said Wednesday night that the man was in critical condition. Nothum would not provide any more information about the man or his condition.

Alisa was snatched from the front yard of her home Monday evening as she played with her 6-year-old brother. Harrison said his granddaughter is "a bright young girl" who has talked "a little bit" with her parents about her abduction.

"As to what she's relaying to them, we don't know," he said. "They're staying down there close to the headquarters they've got down there in St. Louis now, so they're able to get people to her, to talk to her."

Anita McKlevis, a neighbor, told HLN's "Prime News" that the town of about 4,000 was overjoyed by the girl's safe return.

"It was like someone gave us all $1 million," McKlevis said. "Everybody is so happy for this little girl and the family. We are going to stick by the family. That's important."

McKlevis said she sent cupcakes to the family's home, "because I know she loves them."

And Harrison said the family was "ecstatic" over Alisa's safe return.

"I've told people earlier, if I could do a backflip, I would," he said. "When we get her back and get the family together, we're gonna have a barbecue and togetherness, and hugs and kisses. I couldn't be any happier."

Alisa was discovered near a gas station car wash after witnesses saw her walking away from the sedan.

CNN's Scott Thompson contributed to this report.