Kidnapped girl saved by sanitation workers
Pelican Waste & Debris sanitation workers Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine are being touted as heroes for saving a kidnapped 10-year-old girl while out on their collection routes. The New Iberia Police Department reported that the girl, Jalisa Lasalle, had been abducted from a family member’s home in New Iberia, Louisiana, in between 1 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 7. Authorities believed Lasalle was in “imminent danger,” and subsequently, issued an Amber Alert in the middle of the night asking residents to look out for a gray 2012 Nissan Altima that she was last seen getting into. Merrick and Antoine were working their waste collection routes in St. Martin Parish, a city 20 miles away from the abduction, on the morning of Feb. 8. According to the two men, they were alarmed when they saw a silver sedan parked in the middle of a field and sensed something might be amiss. “I said, what’s that car doing off in the field like that?” Merrick said in a Facebook Live video. Taking proactive measures, Merrick says they were able to use their refuse truck to block the vehicle from escaping. They then called the police. After arriving on the scene, officers took Michael Sereal, 33, into custody. WATC reported that the man is an acquaintance of one of Lasalle’s family members. “I just saved that little girl’s life. … I just saved that little girl’s life. … They got him now,” Merrick said on the Facebook Live video shortly after police arrived on scene. Lasalle was evaluated by medical professionals after being found. According to police, the investigation is still ongoing. Sereal is being held at the Iberia Parish Jail without bond on charges of aggravated kidnapping of a child and failure to register as a sex offender. ABC News reports Sereal is listed on the New Iberia sex offender database for a conviction of carnal knowledge of a juvenile. “We couldn’t be prouder of Dion and Brandon,” Pelican CEO Roddie Matherne stated in an email to ABC News. “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 and 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].” Pelican Waste & Debris, based in Houma, Louisiana, provides residential and commercial hauling services throughout southern Louisiana.