When the sanitation workers saw a car in a field, they called 911 as the vehicle had been mentioned in an AMBER alert the previous day when the girl was reported missing.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 12, 2021. It has since been updated.
Two sanitation workers who were on their trash collection route on the morning of February 7, 2021, spotted a familiar-looking vehicle. One of the sanitation workers, Dion Merrick, became suspicious of the car, and what happened next helped saved the life of a young girl in Louisiana. If he hadn't been alert the child may have been in an unimaginable situation.
Dion saw a silver 2012 Nissan Altima sitting in a field, and started having questions about what it was doing there. He then realized that it was from a statewide AMBER Alert, which had gone public the night before, reports People.
The sanitation worker immediately called 911 to report the vehicle, and then went live on Facebook, documenting the scene as authorities arrived. "Something told me, 'Just look.' I said 'What's that car doing way ducked off in the field like that?''' Dion was quoted as saying by ABC. "And he was like, 'B, you know what I just saw... man, that looks like that silver Nissan on the Amber Alert,'" the other worker, Brandon Antoine, recalled.
"I called 911 at the same time, backed my [garbage] truck up in the driveway to make sure he didn't get out," Dion said. "I talked to the 911 operator and she basically told me it would be about a minute before a deputy was going to be on the scene."
Within minutes, multiple police officers were at the scene. They surrounded the vehicle with their guns drawn. They took 33-year-old Michael R. Sereal into custody for the disappearance of a 10-year-old from St. Martin Parish. Michael is a registered sex offender in the state of Louisiana and was convicted in 2006 of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
Both sanitation workers are fathers and this incident struck close to home. They said that they didn't have any doubts about getting involved in the situation. "Thank God, man, because I got a little girl. I'm on my job doing what I got to do," Dion said in the livestream.
The little girl, Jalisa Lasalle, 10, had gone missing from a family member's home between 1 and 2 p.m. the day before the men spotted the suspect vehicle. She is now safely back home because the sanitation workers were in the right place at the right time.
The child is being medically evaluated, authorities told The Advocate. Meanwhile, the suspect is being held without bond in the Iberia Parish jail. He was charged with one count of aggravated kidnapping of a child and another count of failure to register as a sex offender, as per People. He has not entered a plea and the court records don't show if he has an attorney yet.
The CEO of the company the sanitation workers are employed in praised his employees in a statement. "We couldn't be prouder of Dion and Brandon," Roddie Matherne said in an email. "In fact, All of our Pelican Waste team have been heroically working without fail during the pandemic quietly, professionally, and consistently serving the communities where we collect garbage & debris. They often respond in other ways while on the road. This was an exceptional thing that may very well have saved a little girl's [life]."
Dion is being hailed as a hero but he says that he was only doing his duty. "People act like they see stuff, but they don't want to say nothing," Dion said to the camera in the livestream. "But she's safe now," he added.