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Total strangers are helping to heal the hurt of a family whose little girl was kidnapped and returned last week.

Last Sunday afternoon, Lindsay Saxon of Glen Burnie was abducted from the Point Pleasant Elementary playground where she was making a sand castle with her sister. She escaped from a house in Howard County three hours later.

Friends, neighbors and people the family has never met have been surrounding the family with affection ever since, says Dan Saxon, the child's father.

The phone hasn't stopped ringing, and dozens of letters and cards are tacked up around the door of their Glen Burnie home.

"It's exciting, for people who don't know us to be so in tune to what's happening," he says. "My wife (Jean) started jotting down names, but she stopped because there have been so many people calling and they'd say, 'You don't know me, but I'm so excited that your child is back. You've helped to make our Christmas!' " Or, he says, they call and say, "We're so happy your child is back.

We've heard about missing children before, but to have it happen so close up really makes it real. We hope you're OK."

Having all these people on your side creates a feeling of security, Saxon says.

"Jean's been pretty emotional about this. It's been a warming experience and made us feel better.

Everywhere they go, on the street and in stores, people approach the Saxons to express joy and sympathy. "Everybody loves Lindsay," says Saxon.

Marring their relief is the fact that Dale LeRoy Knight, accused of kidnapping the 6-year-old, is also charged with sexually assaulting her.

He's being held without bond in the county Detention Center pending psychiatric evaluation.

The man who kidnapped Lindsay forced her into his car, then drove to Howard County. She escaped when he allowed her to go to a home to use the bathroom and she told adults there of her abduction.

"After we found out there was a charge of sexual offense against him, I was a little down," Saxon says. "One of the radio stations asked me to do an interview and I declined because it really hurt. But all these people caring about us; it helps."

On the advice of the child's pediatrician, Lindsay is seeing a professional counselor, Saxon says. "She's starting to talk to her mother a little about what happened, and that's good. She's got to get this out."

Saxon says he doesn't want to smother his daughter, but "I'm going to be scared for a while. In a store, I don't want her out of my sight."

It will take some time for the fear to go away, he says.

"They're not going to be as free as they were. Lindsay's clinging a little here. She's not paranoid, but she's just staying around with us, getting back to normal," he says. "We're just so glad to have her back."

The Saxons want to thank everybody who has helped, from the police force to the media, and especially the strangers who've expressed sympathy and support.

"People have made us feel great. It's given both of us such a warm feeling. We can't return all the cards and phone calls, but we wanted to thank people," says Saxon. "I guarantee them we will have the greatest Christmas and New Year's that anyone could have."

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