At 5:23 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20, Boston Police took a walk-in report for a missing person, Olivia Ambrose, from her sister.
Less than 48 hours later, police were at the door of her alleged kidnapper, drilling through an illegal lock put on his door and preparing to bust into Victor Pena’s Bunker Hill development unit to rescue Ambrose from what was certainly a perilous situation.
The timeline for the quick recovery – which was tantamount to finding a needle in a haystack as she could have been anywhere in the region – came down to alert police work on the ground, and innovative technology in cyberspace. Through the use of both, police were able to find Ambrose in only a short period of time after being alerted to her disappearance.
The first clue came from Ambrose’s sister, who had alertly tried to locate her via a cell phone Finder App on the night she disappeared – having left a bar downtown in an inebriated state. That app reported she was somewhere in the Charlestown development, at the corner of Walford Way and Corey Road.
Nearly 10 divisions and police units collaborated quickly on the investigation and used the phone evidence and video surveillance to track her movements from the bar, to State Street, to the MBTA, to Community College Station, onto Main Street and eventually up Green Street.
At 11:38 p.m., police spotted Ambrose on North and Congress streets – where Pena and another male watched her stagger across the street with some difficulty, then following her on Congress Street. At 12:01 a.m., Ambrose is seen with Pena guiding her to the MBTA as she walked.
By 12:04 a.m., Ambrose’s phone is active on Main Street, then the two are seen walking by Whole Foods on Austin Street – where an eyewitness came forward to tell police his observations, too. Once again, Pena is guiding her as she had trouble walking.
By 12:13 a.m., Ambrose and Pena are seen on a home security video retrieved by police on Green Street heading to Bunker Hill Street. About 15 minutes later, the sister used the App to track Ambrose’s phone to Corey Road.
With all of that information at hand, a task force of law enforcement fanned out across the development around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 22. By 2:40 p.m., they had received information that Pena lived at unit 625. They knocked for about 20 minutes with no answer, and then tried to use the master key to get in – only to find the unauthorized lock.
As they tried to confirm the identity of Pena through Facebook photos and mug shots, Ambrose’s phone became active again and she was texting her mother that she was in danger. Several minutes went by as they tried to dismantle the locks, with police fearing that Ambrose’s life was in danger.
Suddenly, the locks began to open from the inside and Pena opened the door for police.
“As soon as the door opened, (officers) immediately engaged the suspect, Victor Pena, who was standing at the doorway,” read the report. “The detectives could see the victim standing next to Pena crying with a horrified look on her face. The detectives attempted to place handcuffs on Pena in the kitchen area, but he refused to comply and resisted violently. (Officers) were able to eventually secure Pena’s hands and cuff him…The victim reported her phone was taken by Pena and he refused to let her leave the apartment the whole time she was held there.”
Pena was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for a 20-day mental health exam after being arraigned in Charlestown District Court last week. Ambrose has not spoken to the media, but the family has thanked police for their quick investigation using shoe leather, technology and long-standing relationships.