Hours after Alisa Maier was found wandering around a Fenton car wash, cops say her kidnapper died at a hospital following a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Law enforcement officials from several different agencies named Paul Smith --previously a person of interest -- the lone suspect in Alisa's kidnapping at a press conference on July 8, 2010.
"We have recovered evidence from Mr. Smith and from his property to lead us to believe he is the one that abducted Alisa," St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch stated.
Alisa initially gave police reason to believe Smith was involved in her abduction. At the press conference, Chief Fitch stated that Alisa who's hair was much shorter when police recovered her saw a picture of Smith flash across a television and told her family, "he cut my hair."
Police approached Smith on July 7, one day after cops say Alisa was dropped off at a Fenton car wash. Cops say Smith was spray-painting his car when they arrived, but before they could ask any questions, Smith shot himself in the head.
Remarkably, authorities say Smith's suicide attempt initially failed. Smith was rushed to a hospital but died later that night.
With their person of interest dead, cops continued their investigation using other avenues.
"A lot of good old fashioned detective work, that's what really led us to the suspect," Chief Fitch said.
According to the chief, the kidnapper changed Alisa's clothes, and police were able to track the new garments to a Walmart in Troy, Mo. Cops used video surveillance form that store to identify Smith.
Alisa was found safe at a Fenton, Mo., car wash on July 6, 2010, more than 70 miles from her home.
Police received reports of a young child wandering around the car wash in the St. Louis suburb of Old Town Fenton at 9:45 p.m., according to the FBI.
Cops say witnesses at the car wash reported seeing a dark-complected white man, possibly in his 30s, driving a dark-colored four-door car that could possibly be a Ford Escort.
Police say witnesses believe the car was so loud that it may have a hole in the muffler or no muffler at all.
The car was also missing wheelcovers on the driver's side and possibly the passenger side, which witnesses couldn't see.
Alisa's hair had been cut when she was found, according to police.
She was taken to a hospital and then reunited with her family.