updated 9/6/2006 6:50:26 PM ET 2006-09-06T22:50:26

Fishermen rescued a 5-year-old girl who was thrown into a lake before dawn Wednesday, and divers searched the water for another possible victim before determining the child’s mother was safe.

The girl, whose name was not released, had told investigators her assailant told her her mother was dead.

“She told the investigator that the suspect said he’d killed the mother and put her in the lake,” said Greene County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Barber.

Investigators later found the mother safe on land and reunited her with the little girl, who was in a Springfield hospital.

Investigators were looking for a man who they believed took the girl during the night while she was being watched by a baby sitter and threw her into McDaniel Lake north of Springfield.

Suspect’s vehicle found
Barber said the suspect’s vehicle had been found, but he declined to release further details.

The mother had called police early Wednesday after she and the baby sitter discovered the girl was missing.

In the meantime, deputies had been called to the reservoir by three fishermen who heard loud splashing and spotted the girl in the water. Two of the men dove in and rescued her. They told investigators a man was on the bridge and drove off when they jumped in after the girl.

Barber said investigators do not believe the suspect is the child’s father, but they also don’t believe it was a random act.

McDaniel Lake, part of Springfield’s water system, is about 40 feet deep around the bridge. Safety railings on either side of the bridge are about chest-height and about 15 feet above the water.

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