The 11-year-old was playing with blue slime when the van stopped in front of her, and a man ran at her and tried to grab her.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 6, 2021. It has since been updated.
Mariska Hargitay has inspired many young women to embrace their power, and recently, an 11-year-old girl was able to escape a dangerous situation because of things she learned on Law & Order: SVU. The young girl, Alyssa Bonal, from Orlando, Florida, bravely fought off a would-be kidnapper.
The child was waiting for her school bus when a man with a knife approached her. In the surveillance video, the girl can be seen at the bus stop, while cars passed by. She had been playing with blue slime at the time. When the kidnapper tried to grab her, she fought him off and ran away, while making sure to mark him with the slime. This is an identification tactic she learned from watching the show. Because of her quick thinking, the 30-year-old man, Jared Paul Stanga, was captured later. He still had the blue dye from the slime on his arms, reported Good Morning America.
When the news story broke, Hargitay reached out to the 11-year-old girl on social media and offered support. "Alyssa, first and most important, I am so relieved and grateful to know that you are safe. And I am so honored to be part of your incredible story," Hargitay wrote on Instagram. "You are one BRAVE, Strong, and Smart young woman. I think the SVU squad might have to add slime to their crime-fighting gear! Take good care of yourself and each other. With all my love, your number one fan, Mariska."
The girl's mom, Amber Bonal, revealed the connection to Pensacola News Journal with the TV show while describing what happened to her daughter. The worried mom said, "Her first words were, 'Somebody tried to kidnap me. He grabbed me by my throat and he had a knife.' She said she was able to kick and she tripped him and freed herself."
"She said, 'Mom, I had to leave some sort of evidence behind, like on Law & Order SVU.' We've watched probably every episode on Hulu. She's a smart cookie, she thinks on her toes. She got that slime everywhere."
The family is still coming to terms with how close Alyssa was to being taken by the man, and what the consequences of that would have been. "If she would have been taken … I could have lost her forever," cried her mom. The attack was caught on surveillance video, which is also how the sheriff's office caught the man. County Sheriff Chip Simmons said that the would-be abductor had a white Dodge Journey at home just like the one on the video. The vehicle had a matching license plate. Before the deputies reached his place, the man had tried to paint over the front chrome bumper with black paint.
He still had the blue dye on his arms, just like the child had said. The 30-year-old was taken into custody without incident and charged with attempted kidnapping, aggravated assault, and battery. His bond was set at more than $1.5 million. Unfortunately, the girl was unable to pick him up from a photo lineup, and Stanga’s defense attorney, Robert Dees, cast doubt on if he is the right suspect. The child had initially described the man as Hispanic while Stanga is Caucasian.
Cover image source: (L) Getty Images | Photo by Monica Schipper; (R) Escambia County Sheriff's Office