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Abducted Mercer County girl safe, father in custody

Courtesy photo
Porshia Atwell, 8, was returned safely home Saturday evening after being abducted by her father, Tracey Lee Atwell, 38, on Thursday. Atwell allegedly choked his ex-wife to death and faces murder, kidnapping and other charges.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An 8-year-old girl who was abducted by her father Thursday and taken after he allegedly strangled his ex-wife has been found safe.

An Amber Alert for 8-year-old Porshia Atwell was canceled Saturday evening, mere hours after her grandparents - who have custody of the child - held a news conference with the West Virginia State Police pleading for their son to turn himself in and bring Porshia home safely.

Tracey Lee Atwell, 38, of Iaeger, McDowell County, was taken into West Virginia State Police custody at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday while he was driving on W.Va. 5 near the intersection of Nubbins Ridge and Egeria roads in Mercer County, according to the State Police.

Atwell was arrested without incident and is facing murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, concealment of a child and grand larceny charges.

A trooper at the State Police detachment in Princeton said Porshia Atwell was not harmed and is fine, physically.

"We're all thankful for that," the trooper said.

The two-day manhunt for the missing child involved troopers from several State Police detachments, the Mercer County Sheriff's Department, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Willard Atwell said during a news conference Saturday that Tracey Atwell abducted Porshia after strangling his ex-wife, Christina Maria Atwell, before trying to kill himself.

Christina Maria's body, which was found at her home in Mercer County, has been sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office, which will determine her exact cause of death.

After the incident, Tracey Atwell fled to his parents' house in Camp Creek at about 3 p.m., tied them up and robbed them.

Atwell told his parents he had killed Christina before taking his daughter from the home and stealing his parents' 1999 Jeep Cherokee Laredo. Police said he also took a .357 Magnum revolver.

Police said Atwell was spotted in Princeton on Thursday but had not been seen since.

The State Police said Atwell called his parents Friday night, but they weren't at home. His sister picked up the phone and briefly spoke to Porshia. She told police Porshia appeared to be OK during the conversation.

Willard Atwell said Saturday that his son's behavior is unlike him, although he said at the news conference that Tracey Atwell is bipolar.

The State Police has said Tracey Atwell and his ex-wife had a history of domestic violence. Police also said Atwell has a drug problem and is known to take prescription pain pills intravenously.

Police had hoped Atwell would remain in the area where he had drug connections.

Staff Writer Susan Williams contributed to this report.

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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