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Person of Interest in Alisa Maier Kidnapping Dead, Say Missouri Police

Alisa Maier (Personal Photo) Personal Photo

LOUISIANA, Mo. (CBS/KMOV/AP) A man wanted for questioning in the abduction of 4-year-old Missouri girl Alisa Maier has died. The 38-year-old man, Paul Serling Smith, shot himself as officers approached his home Wednesday afternoon and died Wednesday night, said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum

PICTURES: Alisa Maier Kidnapped

Sources close to the investigation say a store reported that Smith purchased clothing from the store. That led officials to a property in Lincoln County, Missouri. When police approached the property, Smith apparently shot himself.

Smith was a convicted sex offender who was released from jail two weeks ago after an arrest on drug charges. He pleaded guilty to sodomy in 1995 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The victim in that crime was 10 years old.

Alisa was snatched on Monday from the front yard of her Louisiana, Missouri home at about 8 p.m. Her 6-year-old brother witnessed the kidnapping, and told police a young man in a dark-colored car pulled up and ordered Alisa to get in.

A little more than a day later, a dark-colored car was seen at a car wash in St. Louis County, some 70 miles to the south. About that same time, a child was seen wandering around the car wash. It turned out to be Alisa.

Police followed up on more than 100 leads in the search for her kidnapper. About 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, officers approached a tiny home in Hawk Point, Mo., a small community that sits between Louisiana and St. Louis County. As officers sought to talk to a man they described as a "person of interest," he pulled out a gun and shot himself.

St. Louis County Police spokesman Rick Eckhard stopped short of calling Smith a suspect. But Eckhard said a dark-colored car parked outside the home matched descriptions given by Alisa's brother and by a witness at the car wash.

Still, Eckhard said there may be other persons of interest and that it was "too soon to say" whether the investigation was coming to an end.

At least 60 police officers and more than 100 residents, some from as far away as St. Louis, joined in the frantic search for Alisa.

Anyone with information about the suspect or a car matching the above description, is asked to please contact police at 314-889-2341.