Mariska Hargitay surprises girl whose 'Law and Order' fandom helped catch attacker

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  • Mariska Hargitay
    Mariska Hargitay
    American actress
Actor Mariska Hargitay smiles in a black shirt and crystal-studded black jacket
Mariska Hargitay, star of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," just surprised a plucky young fan on national television. (Brent N. Clarke / Associated Press)

What could have been a tragedy has turned into a (mostly) feel-good story after a Florida girl escaped an apparent kidnapping attempt and used an idea she got from watching "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" to help catch her alleged attacker.

The show's star, Mariska Hargitay, surprised her young fan on national television Friday morning.

Alyssa Bonal, 11, was waiting for a school bus Tuesday morning when a man reportedly wielding a knife jumped out of a white SUV and ran at her. In a chilling scene captured on security camera footage, the girl ran, but the man caught her and tried to drag her toward the vehicle. She broke out of his grasp, and he fled the scene.

The suspect, 30-year-old Jared Paul Stanga, was caught hours later and is now being held on a bond of more than $1.5 million.

In a press conference, Sheriff Chip Simmons of Escambia County, Fla., said, "The victim, at the time of the abduction, was playing with blue slime. ... The suspect, when we caught him, had blue slime all over his own arms.

"She fought like a trooper."

Alyssa said the sliming was no accident: She and her mother are longtime fans of NBC's long-running hit crime drama "Law and Order: SVU," and that inspired her to leave a blue clue.

"I was able to get the slime onto his upper arm, and a little bit on his lower arm," she told correspondent Kerry Sanders on "Today," saying she had been mixing blue paint into some homemade slime that morning. She also said that because of what she learned from the TV show, "I knew that might be better evidence if the cops do find him."

Hargitay posted Thursday on Instagram, "Alyssa, first and most important, I am so relieved and grateful to know that you are safe. And I am so honored to be part of your incredible story. You are one BRAVE, Strong and Smart young woman. I think the SVU squad might have to add slime to their crimefighting gear! Take good care of yourself and each other. With all my love, your number one fan, Mariska."

Sanders spoke with Alyssa again on Friday's "Today" show. After a brief interview, he said, "We have a little surprise for you. You know her as Capt. Olivia Benson."

"Yes!" Alyssa exclaimed.

"She's actress Mariska Hargitay," he added.

“I’m so incredibly honored to meet you,” Hargitay said as she joined the video conference. "I just want to tell you how blown away me and all of my squad are, and I think the whole world right now, that you had the forethought and the wherewithal to do what you did and I am just blown away."

Hargitay showed the girl a script she had signed for her with the dedication, "Alyssa, you are my hero."

Alyssa said, “It’s amazing to meet you. ... I never thought in my whole entire life that I was going to be able to even meet you.”

Sanders asked Hargitay what Capt. Olivia Benson would say to Alyssa. Hargitay responded, "Would you like to be on my squad?"

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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