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Easter becomes the center of attention for returned girl

The only visit 4-year-old Serenity Platts cared about this morning was the one from the Easter Bunny.

The Platts family is trying to return to normal today after a much different visit Monday night from a former family friend now charged with abducting Serenity.

The little girl went missing for four hours, a nationwide Amber Alert went into effect and a community mobilized for a search.

"Everybody in Western New York is a hero," Jason Platts said Friday as he praised the help of police and many others for the safe return of his daughter.

Christa Platts, the girl's mother, said she felt that Serenity became "everybody's little girl" as residents in the region waited, hoped and prayed for her safe return.

David "D.J." Grover, 29, of the Town of Tonawanda, was charged with kidnapping after he dropped off Serenity near her home early Tuesday and led police on a chase. He also was charged with driving while impaired by drugs, endangering the welfare of a child, fleeing from police, reckless driving and several traffic violations.

Grover admitted he had used painkillers before he showed up at the family home unannounced, and used cocaine in the family's bathroom after he arrived, according to police statements. He also said he left with Serenity without permission from the girl's grandmother, who was baby-sitting at the time.

At home late last week, Serenity was all smiles. Her house was filled with dolls and princess balloons, and she was more interested in showing off her gray-painted toenails than fretting over her abduction.

Her parents -- inundated by reporters the night of the abduction and the day afterward -- said they look forward to keeping their household calm in the days and weeks to come. They said they granted an interview because they wanted to dispel a misconception and thank members of the community for their support.

"A lot of people came out to search for her," Jason Platts said. "Others made phone calls and some prayed. We got calls from all over, even from other states."

He said it was outstanding how everyone pulled together.

"Some soldiers who had just come back from Iraq, who were still in fatigues, were out there trying to help," the girl's father said.

The family bristles at any suggestions of poor parenting.

"I'm a very protective mother. We don't let our children go with anybody. And we would never have let her go out without socks and so late at night," Christa Platts said.

The couple also has another daughter, Destiny, 8.

Grover met Jason Platts about two years ago when they worked together.

Serenity's parents told The News they knew Grover had a drug problem, and that's why they cut off contact with him and did not want him in the house or near their children.

Serenity's grandmother, Robin David, testified in court Friday that Grover came into the house at about 8 p.m. Monday without knocking and left with her granddaughter without her permission.

Christa Platts said the family continues to be amazed by the support they received.

"It not the kind of thing you think can happen to you," she said. "We have a great neighborhood. They were all out to help."

The family is counting its blessings.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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