Carlesha Freeland-Gaither was returning from a family visit on the night of Nov. 2, 2014, when she was grabbed by an unknown assailant and forced into a car.

Less than 72 hours later, the 22-year-old had been rescued and her abductor, identified as 37-year-old Delvin Barnes, had been arrested.

The rescue was part of “everything falling into place,” as police would later say.

Freeland-Gaither’s first move was crucial. She left her cell phone on the ground next to where she had been abducted.

“She’s an intelligent girl,” Philadelphia Police Det. Jim Sloan said. “She left it there for us to find.”

Then came Dwayne Fletcher’s role in the investigation. The witness saw Freeland-Gaither struggling and called police twice to report the situation. He stayed and waited for police to arrive and relayed all of the information he had.

“If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think we’d have the same outcome,” Sloan said of Fletcher’s quick thinking. “This man is a hero.”

Police were able to recover surveillance video from the corner where Freeland-Gaither had be abducted, furthering their investigation.

Freeland-Gaither continued her crucial role in her own rescue. When Barnes asked for the pin number to her debit card, she complied, knowing that police would be able to track its use.

According to ABC News in Philadelphia:

Because police were able to read the exact moment that her card was used at the ATM, they could cross check that with security cameras around the ATM at that time and then widely release that footage along with a description of the suspect.

That description matched a man who bought a bag of potato chips and water at a nearby grocery store, giving investigators another stop on the trail.

… Law enforcement in Virginia recognized a telling sticker on the suspect’s car and connected that car to Barnes, who was wanted in Virginia in a different attack. Authorities said investigators were able to determine the Virginia car dealership where Barnes bought the car. That dealership had GPS installed in the car as part of a program for financially worrisome customers. That GPS led police right to the vehicle in Jessup, Md., where agents took him into custody and rescued Freeland-Gaither.

“It was actually a case study example of how it’s supposed to work and I say that knowing it doesn’t happen a lot but this could be a case study on how everything fell right into place,” Philadelphia Police Inspector James Kelly said in a press conference. “… The FBI, the ATF, everybody worked great. Everybody communicated and we got a lot of input from the public.”

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