Girl admits kidnapping didn’t happen

January 27, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

 

A 10-year-old Endeavour Elementary School girl, who told authorities she was kidnapped from in front of her Klahanie home Jan. 19, admitted to police Jan. 24 that she lied.The alleged abduction put area neighborhoods and schools on high alert, and community reaction prompted questions about the frequency of stranger kidnappings.

The King County Sheriff’s Office has responded to three reports of kidnappings in the past two years, said spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart. 

“Stranger kidnappings are extremely rare,” he said.

Although it’s illegal to file a false report, children younger than 12 are presumed incapable of being able to commit a crime in this state, he said. 

“This is a 10-year-old girl who got caught up in her own story and it turned out to be false,” he said. “In no way would we consider filing charges.”

However, time and effort was used to pursue a false investigation, he said. 

“This is a truly heinous crime, had it occurred, and we pulled out all the stops and put a tremendous amount of resources into it,” he said. “I’ve been asked, would we do anything different in hindsight, and the answer is no, we wouldn’t have done anything different.”  

Even though the allegation was proven false, two business owners decided to still hold classes to teach children how to be safe if strangers approach them.

A story later recanted

The girl told police she was abducted in the Madison Place neighborhood at about 4:30 p.m. She said a man driving an old, beat-up blue truck grabbed her, locked her in his vehicle and threw her bike in the back.

The girl told police that because she began kicking and screaming at the man — who she described as having a reddish-dark complexion, dark hair, approximately 6 feet tall with a thin build and in his 30s — released her unharmed at the Summer Hill Apartments on Issaquah-Fall City Road Southeast, about a mile and a half from her home. 

She said she ran to a nearby residence where a woman let her use the phone to call her parents, who were by then meeting with King County deputies. 

When the girl was reunited with her parents, “She kept saying she was scared,” the girl’s father said Jan. 23. “I told her, ‘Daddy’s here. You’re safe.’ I kept repeating that.”

People reached out to the family, helping them with day-to-day support. The girl’s classmates drew countless cards and sent well-wishes to her home.

Local businesses and organizations began planning children’s self-defense seminars; many others posted the girl’s description of her abductor and the police sketch of the suspect.

The girl told her parents the night of Jan. 24 that she had made the story up, and her parents promptly notified detectives investigating the case.

“We had a long talk,” her father said of his daughter. “I asked her if anyone ever talked to her in a way that made her uncomfortable in any way, or if any adult had touched her in an area that made her feel uncomfortable, and if that was why she did this. She said that wasn’t why.”

He said the family is working on finding out why she made up the story, but she has been consistent with saying it hasn’t been due to trauma; she is undergoing counseling. 

 

School officials respond

Schools sent e-mail bulletins to several areas, alerting parents and others about the abduction and tips for parents and children to stay safe.  

Residents, like Amber Pickett, a mother and personal nanny, noticed a big change in the Klahanie neighborhood.

“In just the past day, I’ve noticed a difference in the amount of kids that are out there,” she said Jan. 21, adding that she was taking precautions, like not going out with the three children she cares for, without additional adult supervision. 

Incidents of strangers approaching students near school campuses at Cascade Ridge Elementary School and Beaver Lake Middle School were reported in September, October and January. Reports about them were sent out in individual school communications, but not to the district’s entire population.

“I would like the district to send out an alert every time an incident occurs districtwide to parents of all schools in the district,” said Miho Reed, a parent of students at Beaver Lake and Cascade Ridge. “It doesn’t just affect a particular school or community, it affects the entire community.” 

After the girl’s report was proven to be false, district officials sent word to school principals, who disseminated it in their E-news bulletins if they felt it was necessary.  

“Officers are no longer investigating the case or looking for a suspect,” Endeavour’s E-news said Jan. 26. “While this news will hopefully help parents in surrounding neighborhoods feel more at ease, let’s not forget the important reminder about continually talking to children about stranger safety. Although we did not have an emergency situation last week — let’s make sure that stays true for the future, as well.”

The trouble with false reports

False reports can divert time and energy from a department’s force, said Issaquah Police Cmdr. Stan Conrad. It is also illegal.

In the past, officers have investigated several serious crimes, like sexual assault, assaults, and abductions, that turned out to be false, he said. 

In one case, a teenager claimed he was set on fire, Conrad said. But the boy was actually injured while doing a stunt similar to those seen on the former MTV show “Jackass.” He had gotten hurt more than he thought he would and didn’t want to admit that to his parents.

“The reality is, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we take all reports seriously and allocate the proper resources to investigate them,” he said. “Obviously, it can really hurt our availability if we are tied up investigating a false allegation. It diverts resources and eats up time we could spend on other reports.” 

 

The family apologizes

The family issued this   statement Jan. 26:

“Having learned from our daughter that the reported abduction did not occur, our family would like to sincerely apologize to the community for the disruption and worry that this has caused, and the diversion of law enforcement from other matters. 

“Our concerns this past week have been not only for the safety and well-being of our children, but also for all of the children in our neighborhood and community. 

“For the community at large, we hope that this false alarm will not lessen the recognition of the need to carefully watch out for the safety of our children against what remains an unfortunate possibility in this day and age.”

 

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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