Kidnap suspect was known to many


Approximately 87,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2001, according to the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services. As many JCC professionals know, abuse, sexual and otherwise, occurs nearly everywhere. Yet, there is a natural inclination to believe abuse won’t happen in our own communities, not to mention our own JCC. Awareness of the threat is key, and reinforcing proven abuse prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Abuse Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focussing on one real, recent, public event, gleaned from the media… reprinting the article about the event in its entirety (omitting names and identifying references to the YMCA) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546.

“Kidnap suspect was known to many… residents recognize him from a variety of jobs dealing with public”

SMALL SOUTHERN CITY: March 28, 2004 - It seems just about anybody here can recall meeting [alleged kidnapper]. Now, this community is trying to cope with how a familiar face can be the man charged with kidnapping a 7-year-old boy from a [large retail store].

Investigators are trying to piece together [alleged kidnapper]’s life as substitute teacher in [city] School District 3 to gas station employee to the man behind the counter at the [nearby town] [fast food restaurant]. “It will take a while to do a complete background on this individual” [county] sheriff’s Capt. [name] said. “He’s been around here for a while and had a lot of contact with a lot of people. We’re interviewing each person to find out the extent of contact and that takes a while.”

[Alleged kidnapper] was arrested Thursday at his [nearby town] home in the abduction of [victim]. The boy was taken from an [city] [retail store] on Monday night, according to a warrant, and dropped off the next morning at a [grocery] store. Investigators still don’t know why [victim] was taken, [police captain] said. [County] Sheriff [name] said the boy might have been lured from the [retail store] with offers of video games or money.

A spokesman for [fast-food restaurant] said [alleged kidnapper] worked part-time as a shift leader at its [nearby town] restaurant for the past three months. [Alleged kidnapper] was identified as a possible suspect when [county] sheriff’s Capt. [name] received a tip Wednesday evening. A customer at the [fast-food restaurant] told authorities a man working there matched the description of the kidnapper. He said the worker had scratches on his head, just like the man authorities were seeking.

[Victim]’s father, [name], said he recognized [alleged kidnapper]’s face from shopping at the grocery store where he believed he worked. “It’s kind of bizarre. We’re like a lot of people; we remembered him from the [another retail store],” he said.

[Second retail store] spokeswoman [name] confirmed that [alleged kidnapper] worked for the store more than three years ago for a short time, but she did not specify the dates. Authorities have searched [alleged kidnapper]’s home, combed the landfill for his trash and talked to police from other departments who were investigating unsolved child abductions in their jurisdictions, [sheriff captain] said. “Everybody who has unsolved cases is interested in it,” [sheriff captain] said. “That’s pretty normal in a case like this.” [Sheriff captain] said investigators also have talked to those who know [alleged kidnapper], including parents of children [alleged kidnapper] baby-sat.

A YMCA official confirmed that [alleged kidnapper] worked for the agency, but would not say whether he was involved with children. One area resident, [name], told the [local newspaper] that her 7-year-old daughter spent every day after school at [name] Elementary with [alleged kidnapper] last year as part of a YMCA after-school program directed by [alleged kidnapper]. Some 15 children spent the afternoons, from the time school let out until 6 p.m., with [alleged kidnapper] and one other director, [resident] said. “He always took them places, took them bowling, made sure they were outside, took them to get pizza. We’d have pizza parties; he’d take them swimming at the YMCA. He cared a lot about them” she told the newspaper. “He had a wonderful personality; he was really outgoing. He was a nice man, I mean a really nice man,” she said.

In October 2001, a [city] neighbor of [alleged kidnapper]’s called the Sheriff’s Office to complain about a man who was pushing a boy into a wall and cursing him, according to the incident report. A deputy later identified the man as [alleged kidnapper], according to an incident report. [Alleged kidnapper] was with the 9-year-old boy at a hotel across the street, the report stated, because he was babysitting the child and power to [alleged kidnapper]’s home had been cut off.

Records show he had no prior arrest record and therefore would not have been prevented from working with or around children. [Victim], a first-grader at [different name] Elementary, returned to school Wednesday, his mother said. “The first day was a little hard,” [mother] said. “I stayed with him the whole time that we were there, which was probably a couple of hours. Yesterday, he went to school and he stayed by himself. He worked with the girls in the office and then he went down to his classroom and stayed for a little while until we got the call.” That call informed them that [alleged kidnapper] had been arrested.

What we know:

  • Nearly everyone knew him… he had been around the area for some time.
  • He had no prior arrests.
  • He was generally well regarded: “He was a nice man, I mean, a really nice man.”

What we must remember:

  • The importance of proper screening, a signed Code of Conduct, and abuse prevention training for all staff members
  • The importance of reference checks with a parent or immediate family member
  • The importance of internal (staff) and external (community) feedback systems
  • The importance of not allowing rule infractions (especially outside activities with children)

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about JCC risk management issues.


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