The authorities have taken the unusual step to rescue a girl seen sexually assaulted on the tape – they released her pictures in hope that someone would recognize her.
They gave the media a first name for the girl, whose haunting face could be seen in the video in which she was raped. They also released a photograph of her.
The plan worked. On Friday, the girl was found safe in Las Vegas and a fugitive who knew her family was named a suspect in the case, authorities said.
"She looks like a very happy 7-year-old girl," Nye County sheriff's Det. David Boruchowitz said at a news conference late Friday.
The girl, who was 3 when the tape was made, was with relatives and sheriff's officials, he said.
Chester Arthur Stiles, who was previously being sought for questioning, is now considered a suspect but remains at large, Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said. Stiles has tenuous ties to the family through friends, Boruchowitz said.
Widespread media accounts of the case led someone to call the girl's mother, who notified police, authorities said.
"Somebody contacted her and said, 'Hey, your daughter's on TV,"' Boruchowitz said.
Authorities said the videotape was made at a Las Vegas residence that did not belong to the girl's family, though her mother recognized furniture seen in still images of the tape. She also recognized Stiles in a photo released by police.
"The mother was not aware of anything that went on with this young girl," DeMeo said.
Earlier Friday, authorities released information they would not normally release in such crimes in hopes of getting tips from the public, DeMeo said.
"We sat down ... and said, 'You know what? We have nothing else,"' he said.
The Associated Press is no longer identifying or releasing photos of the girl because she is a suspected victim of sexual abuse. It did so earlier in the interest of her safe recovery.
Stiles, 37, whose last known address was Las Vegas, is wanted on an unrelated state warrant on a charge of lewdness with a minor younger than 14 and a federal charge of being a fugitive, DeMeo said.
Investigators determined that the video of the attack was recorded on a tape that also included an 11-year-old girl recorded through a window of a Pahrump home, DeMeo said.
Officials identified that girl, now 13, after releasing photos taken from the video and matched to records of a "peeping Tom" report at her home. No one was found outside the girl's home when deputies arrived, and the girl was not assaulted, authorities said.
A 26-year-old man surrendered the tape to Nye County sheriff's investigators Sept. 8 and told investigators he found it in the desert five months earlier, Boruchowitz said.