April 5, 2012
Federal agents cannot connect abduction attempts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal agents have not linked two cases of suspects in a white van attempting to abduct children in Wayne County and St. Albans to four similar cases in Kanawha and Mingo counties.

Within the past two months, the FBI and various local police agencies have been investigating reports of apparent male suspects attempting to coerce or force children into a vehicle in Wayne, Mingo and Kanawha counties.

"Part of our challenge now is trying to determine if these are connected or not," said Joe Ciccarelli, FBI supervisory senior resident agent.

Agents believe two alleged attempted abductions in Wayne and Kanawha counties last month involve the same suspect or suspects driving a "box-style," older model white van with possible front-end damage:

  • On March 20 in Kenova, a 13-year-old girl was heading to practice with her volleyball team at the Buffalo Kindergarten Complex when a man in a white van allegedly tried to abduct her. The girl got away and the suspect fled. The West Virginia State Police in Huntington are investigating.
  • On March 27, Kanawha County Sheriff's deputies were called to the 200 block of Winfield Road in St. Albans at about 6:45 a.m. after an 18-year-old female said a man tried to kidnap her. The teenager said she was waiting for the school bus when a white cargo van pulled up and a middle-aged man jumped out and tried to grab her.
  • Kanawha County Sheriff Lt. Sean Crosier said there might be two suspects working together in these cases. One male suspect has been described as 50 to 60 years old, balding with gray hair and possibly a "pot belly." The man also might have an eye that he is unable to open. Police do not have a description of the second man.

    Four additional reported cases - three in Kanawha County -- have conflicting suspect descriptions or have no suspect descriptions provided:

  • A 17-year-old girl from Williamson in Mingo County called police on March 22 and said she was walking to catch a school bus when a man began following her. The man allegedly grabbed the girl and held a gun to her head, but ran off when a car passed by. State Police in Williamson are also investigating.
  • South Charleston Police began investigating on March 28 after a young girl reported that an older man ran after her on Jefferson Road. Video footage from a nearby school bus captured a man, but police have ruled him out as a suspect.
  • On Tuesday, Handley Police Chief Essie Ford was called to a residence near Hutch's Wrecker Service on Churchill Drive. A 12-year-old boy and his 10-year-old male cousin said a man wearing blue jeans and a dark hooded sweatshirt chased them up a steep set of stairs. Ford said the suspect had fled before he arrived.
  • Sheriff's deputies were called to Cedar Grove Wednesday to investigate an alleged attempted abduction of a 7-year-old boy. Crosier said a man in a dark-colored truck attempted to lure the boy to get inside with him. The boy's guardians noticed and called 911.
  • These cases possibly involve different suspects because both male and female victims have been reported, Ciccarelli said.

    "We are seeing a little bit of an uptick in reported cases," he said. "That could just mean that people are being more alert or somewhat suspicious or it could in fact all be related."

    Ciccarelli reminded parents and guardians to educate their children about "stranger danger." He said anyone who sees anything suspicious should report it to local law enforcement agencies immediately.

    Crosier reminds eyewitnesses to get a description of the suspect's vehicle, what he or she is wearing and which direction they were heading.

    Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.

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