Dateline   |  April 21, 2014

Ransom, Part 3

The FBI joins in the manhunt for Quinn Gray's kidnappers.  Quinn's mother attempts a ransom money drop to save her daughter's life.  Will it work?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it was saturday afternoon. quinn gray , wife and mother of two, had been missing for almost 24 hours . after two attempted money drops failed, the local sheriff called in the fbi . almost 150 people were now working to find quinn gray . the agent in charge of the fbi 's jacksonville office is james casey. he says the kidnappers appeared to be deactivating quinn 's cell phone after each of the calls they made to reid .

>> somebody in the scheme was smart enough to take the battery out of the cell phone because we were able to do some technical capabilities and determine that that phone was not only off but had no power to it at certain times.

>> meaning you can't trace it?

>> meaning you can't trace it.

>> while there was no pin pointing an exact address where quinn 's calls were originating, technicians were tracing pings when the phone was in use. those are the electronic connections made when a phone hits a particular cell tower , and that gave investigators a general idea where quinn might have been held. fbi agent tony kravit was selected as the lead crisis negotiator for the bureau.

>> we're tracking the phone and thinking we've got some leads.

>> agents felt they were making progress, but suddenly the phone was also pinging farther away. the kidnappers and quinn might have been on the move. sheriff's detective howard cole was sent in pursuit.

>> it was believed that quinn gray 's cell phone was being tracked to an area west of orlando.

>> but something had gone wrong. before tracing the calls, investigators had to get a judge's approval. and in the rush to fill out the proper paperwork, someone made a small, but critical error.

>> when they actually went to get the order signed by a judge, what was typed into the actual affidavit and order, the numbers were transposed.

>> so somebody put the wrong phone number in?

>> human error .

>> so the phone you were following wasn't quinn 's phone?

>> correct.

>> how long did you follow that other phone.

>> all day saturday.

>> and suddenly what investigators thought were solid leads from quinn 's cell phone simply vanished.

>> when you realized you were following the wrong cell phone , what?

>> my hair was on fire. my hair was on fire. i thought how can something like this happen and we were really back to square one, who are we looking for? we had no idea.

>> the rest of saturday went by with no word from quinn or the kidnappers. meanwhile, quinn 's mom, gail sikes, left her georgia home and headed to her daughter's house in ponte vedra , florida.

>> i jumped in my car and headed south.

>> how long is the drive?

>> seven and a half hours. long drive with that kind of information in your brain.

>> around 2:00 p.m . when gala rooi -- gail arrived, she walked into an unbelievable scene.

>> i walked into a war zone .

>> the s.w.a.t. team was in the house?

>> i was told that they were outside, in the bushes, on the roof. it was unreal.

>> early sunday morning, almost 36 hours since quinn gray 's abduction and 12 hours since the last contact from the kidnappers, fbi hostage negotiator tony kravith decided to have quinn 's mom send text messages to her daughter's phone, hoping the kidnappers would read them.

>> every 20 minutes , every hour, we sent a message. please call me, i love you. let me know that you're safe, i'm very worried about you.

>> you want the kidnappers to start thinking of her as a mom who needs to go home to her family and not just a cash register .

>> i want the kidnappers to think of quinn gray as a wife, as a daughter, as a mother.

>> finally, a text came back about 9:30 a.m . this time to quinn 's mom's phone. have the money in a bag. no traceable devices. no reid whatsoever. if he is anywhere close, she's dead. no cops. be ready to leave at 11:00 . the kidnappers had apparently decided they no longer wanted to deal with reid .

>> why?

>> we didn't know. one of the techs said he had messed it up already. after the failed chick-fil-a drop, another thought was that mom was more controllable.

>> so reid gray was no longer at the center of a huge law enforcement effort that was working around the clock to save his wife. quinn 's mother would make the next money drop. it was an unlikely role for this 62-year-old grandmother, a manager at a walmart and a dog breeder on the side.

>> i was very concerned that if i didn't drop the money properly, that that would be the end for quinn .

>> what in your background prepared you for what you were going through?

>> i guess just being a mother and trying to protect your children.

>> despite her nerves, gail sikes was pressed into service. at around 10:30 a.m ., the kidnappers instructed quinn 's mom to go to mikeler's landing, an area along the beach, and there she would find further instructions in a bathroom. gail left her daughter's house. the money was in a blue bag , along with a tracking device , courtesy of the fbi . at the location, quinn 's mother found the designated bathroom. hidden inside the toilet paper holder was a note. it looked again to be in quinn 's handwriting and gail read it allowed to investigators.

>> so far i'm fine. no harm has been done to me. after you pick up this letter, you are going to drive north toward joe's crab shack. drop the money out of the car and do not look back. anything goes wrong and i'm dead.

>> up to this point they didn't want to hurt her, they had no intention of hurting her, but now it said anything goes wrong, i'm dead.

>> they're escalating it?

>> yes.

>> undercover agents converged on joe's crab shack, a local restaurant popular with tourists.

>> we've got surveillance units out, we've got an airplane out.

>> you're watching?

>> we're watching.

>> quinn 's mom drove to the crab shack.

>> i drove through, came around the corner and there were bushes sitting on, i guess, a sidewalk area. i stopped the car, rolled the window down, threw the money toward the bushes.

>> did you tell investigators to watch the money carefully?

>> absolutely.

>> you guys all on to this?

>> yeah.

>> all right. because i don't want some stranger to come along and pick up that bag.

>> the plan is to see who picks up the bag and then, what, follow them back to presumably where quinn is?

>> right. we knew at their level they were going to be aware of the tracking device , they knew they were going to be sur veiled.

>> an fbi agent monitored the situation from the command center , as undercover surveillance teams reported back on what was happening in the parking lot.

>> it wasn't too long after she threw the money out that a group of males walks by. one of them wanders over, kicks the bag a little bit. pick up the bag, threw the bag in the back of an suv, jump into the car and start doing kind of a circuitous route around the area.

>> they start doing suspicious things. they drive through a little neighborhood almost trying to clean themselves from surveillance.

>> it was the first major break in the case.

>> now we've got a lead. we've got a license plate, we've got three males, and we're watching where they're going.

>> but what happened next was