They pulled in front of me as I was crossing the dead-end street on my Huffy banana seat bike headed to my friend’s house. I stomped on my pedal to bring my bike to an abrupt halt to avoiding crashing into their station wagon. I didn’t recognize the car or the people inside. The man driving rolled down his window. It was the crank kind of the time, not like the electronic ones today. This many years later I don’t remember him as much as I do the woman in the passenger seat. She leaned over the driver and did most of the talking with her hair swept beneath a polka-dotted bandana, wearing a tank top and large sunglasses, too large for her face. The man, with a scruffy face, a hat and sunglasses, mostly nodded in agreement as she asked if I wanted to get in and see…
After I heard the words, ‘get in’…my mind started to race. I can’t remember what she said? What was in the backseat that she kept pointing her finger towards with one hand and waving me to come in the car with the other? Was it toys? Candy? I must have been staring for much too long without responding because the man…he opened his door.
Ride, ride! Pounded in my mind. Suddenly my feet caught up with my mind and they started pedaling, HARD. I didn’t look back until I was well down the block to see the car jutting backwards as its tires spun trying to grasp the pavement that would eventually lurch it back from the dead-end street and swerve wildly onto the main through street. The street I lived on.
I knew the dead-end street led into a wooded area. An area I knew well from playing there with my neighborhood friends. A ravine flowed through the wooded area and if I followed it on the paths we had worn I would end up near the campus area of a nearby university and business district. There would be people there. I pedaled until my lungs ached and my legs burned. Once on the other side, I paused only for a moment to catch my breath and look around for the car I had just escaped. It was nowhere in sight. They hadn’t followed me. They were gone.
Once I mustered the courage to leave the cover of the woods, with shaky legs and a dry mouth, I took the long way back around to my house just in case they were still there waiting for me. When I got home I burst through the door, with my heart pounding and tears falling, telling my parents what had happened. They immediately called the police who sent out officers to take a report and search the area. They also sent along a sketch artist. I can still see the drawings in my mind. It never was solved as to who this couple was and what they were doing in my neighborhood that day.
I grew up in the era of Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin. They were boys from our community. We were of similar ages. Not much has changed, except perhaps, the sophistication of the criminal and the authorities hunting them down.
If you live in Iowa today it would be nearly impossible not to have taken notice of the recent rash of attempted abductions, a string of continuous reports of these attempts and consequently, the disappearance of two Iowa girls now considered a case of abduction. If it has gone unnoticed by chance, the following is a timeline of what has been happening in our state and in our communities:
August 28th, 2012: In Huxley, Iowa police said a ten year old girl was walking home from school Tuesday when a man asked if she wanted a ride.
According to police, the girl said no and ran away.
Officers said the man was driving a light blue metallic, four-door sedan. He is described as a white man in his forties with short, brown hair and tattoos on his knuckles.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Story County Crime Stoppers, or call Huxley police at 597-2002.
August 16th, 2012: In Waukee, Iowa police are investigating a report of an attempted abduction of an elementary school girl.
A fifth-grade girl told police that as she was waiting for a school bus at 9:08am in the 3300 block of Ashworth Road, a purple van with three black stripes and tinted windows stopped in front of her.
She told police the driver got out and told her to get in his van. According to police, the girl ran back toward her home while the van left the area.
Police said the driver was described as a black male, approximately thirty years old, wearing black shoes, a long, gold trench coat, a black hat and black sunglasses with red rims.
August 12th, 2012: In Grimes, Iowa police are investigating the attempted abduction of two boys ages three years old and eleven years old.
The Sheriff’s Office said at 1:20pm the boys were approached by a man in a black Ford F150 near the area of West First Street and NW Calista Court.
The Sheriff’s Office said the man told the boys to get into his truck, and he would help them find their mother. When the boys refused, the truck continued east on First Street and the boys ran into the public library.
Authorities described the man as white, bald, between 50 and 60 years old, with crooked teeth and a brown circular spot above his left eye. The man was wearing a black T-shirt and driving a black newer model, (possibly between 2006 and 2011), two-door extended cab Ford F150.
The truck has black rims and a silver bumper with “4X4” printed on the back side of the pickup bed.
Anyone with information about the truck or its driver is asked to call Polk County Crime Stoppers at 515-223-1400 or the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 515-286-3333.
JULY 31St, 2012: In Cedar Rapids, Iowa police are investigating a report of two people who tried to abduct a five year old boy around 5:30pm. The boy’s father told police his five year old son was riding his bicycle along the sidewalk while he followed behind him driving his motorcycle on the street.
A white 1990’s Chevy Astro van pulled up next to the boy and a man got out and grabbed the boy while a woman got out and took his bike. The father told police that after he began yelling at the two they let go of the boy and the bike and drove southbound on Kirkwood Boulevard SW.
The man was described as being in his thirties with short brown hair, about five feet eight inches tall and weighing one hundred and twenty pounds. The woman was in her twenties, had a thin build and has shoulder-length brown hair and a tattoo on the thumb web of her left hand. A third person who was driving the van was described as a man with glasses and a larger build.
JULY 25th, 2012: Authorities say an eleven year old girl from Colo, Iowa was walking to a friend’s house around 2:45pm. The girl told them a white van with partially tinted windows stopped. The man driving the van asked her if she wanted to get in and she ran home and called authorities.
A few hours later at approximately 5:30pm in Slater, Iowa a man driving a black van stopped and offered a ten year old boy and his twelve year old sister candy and said they could come into the van because it was air-conditioned. The children were able to run away and tell their parents what happened. The children described the man as an older white male with dark hair and a beard.
JULY 21st, 2012: In Dubuque, Iowa an eleven year old girl was in the 2700 block of Jackson Street just after 2pm. “I was just sitting there, waiting for my friend, and then the white van come and pulls in on the wrong side of the road and kind of goes right in front of me and says, ‘Hi, you’re a very beautiful girl,’ and I said, ‘Thank you,’ and it kind of freaked me out a little bit,” the young girl reported. The man got out of his van and opened the side door of the vehicle.
“The scariest moment would have to be when he opened the van door because I had no idea what he was going to do,” she said.” I didn’t know if he was going to grab me, pick me up or if he had more people in there.”
She said the man introduced himself and shook her hand. “He, like, touched my face and said, ‘You’re a very beautiful girl,’ and then I slapped his hand away and just started running,” she said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do next. He had the van door open. I was just so scared. My heart was racing, and I just started running.
The man driving the white van was white with blue eyes. She said he had brown-blonde hair with some grey in it and was wearing a white shirt, blue jeans and work boots. She said he walked with a limp.
JULY 13th, 2012: (Girls pictured above) In Evansdale, Iowa on July 13, 2012 is the case of Elizabeth Collins, and Lyric Cook Morrissey, who were last seen riding their bikes on July 13, 2012. Their bikes were later found near Meyers Lake in Evansdale. Collins purse and cell phone was found about twenty five feet away, on the other side of a fence.
Collins is four feet one inches tall, weighs about eighty pounds, has sandy hair, blue eyes and her birth date is July 31st, 2003. Collins was last seen wearing a white shirt, shorts and black tennis shoes or high tops.
Cook is four feet eleven inches tall, weighs one hundred and forty five pounds, and has brown chin-length hair, tanned skin, blue eyes and a mole on the back of her neck the size of a dime. Cook’s birth date is October 2nd, 2001. She was last seen wearing a light green shirt, shorts and black flip flops that, when together, form a Sesame Street character.
Chief Deputy Rick Abben of the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office said investigators are confident that the girls are not in the lake after talking to the FBI dive team and that they are not simply lost, which is why the case is now classified as an abduction case.
Abben said new evidence has been sent to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s lab. He declined to say what the evidence was or where it was found.
He said a fifty thousand dollar reward through anonymous sources and Crime Stoppers is being offered in the case.
Abben said traffic checkpoints were conducted again Friday in and around Evansdale.
“We have no suspects at this time,” said Abben. “Now that it’s an abduction, everyone is suspect.”
If you have any information call the Evansdale Police Department at (319) 232-6682 or the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 291-2515 or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at 1-800-346-5507.
MAY 31st, 2012: Around 2:45pm. in Forest City, Iowa the driver of a tan panel/work style van stopped three children on bicycles in the 700 block of North Eighth Street and told them he was going to get them. The children ran away from the driver and saw him turn west onto O Street. The driver is described as an Asian in his fifties or sixties, short with a medium-size build and a thin face. He had a male passenger with him. He is apparently targeting children who are playing outside without adult supervision according to police. (Note: same description of the suspect that was given on March 14th, 2012 in a reported incident in Forest City, Iowa)
MAY 23rd, 2012: In Pleasant Hill, Iowa officials say the incident happened around 8:00pm at Doanes Park. An eight year old girl told police she was approached by a couple in a black SUV who asked her to get into the car and they would take her home. The child told her ‘no’ and ran to find her parents who were watching a ball game at the park. Police say the driver of the SUV was a white male in his late thirties or early forties. The passenger was a white female about the same age as the male, with short curly hair.
MAY 19th, 2012: In Perry, Iowa about 8pm on Warford Street, three girls which two of them are eleven years old and one nine years old told police that a man had tried to lure the girls into his car by asking for directions to a Perry grocery store. The girls said the man had driven around the neighborhood a couple of times before he stopped and tried to engage them in conversation. Perry police described the suspect as an older white male with gray spiked hair and a white mustache, who was wearing a green plaid shirt, green striped tie and khaki pants.
MAY 17th, 2012: In Waukee, Iowa police are investigating an incident where two elementary-age girls said an SUV followed them until they went inside.
MAY 15th, 2012: In Adel, Iowa an eleven year old boy said two people in a minivan asked him if he wanted a ride or candy before he said ‘no’.
APRIL 5th, 2012: In Altoona, Iowa police said an eleven year old boy reported an abduction attempt. The boy said a he was approached by a man in a dark green van while on his way home from Centennial Elementary School on 15th Street SE. The boy said the man asked him if he wanted to get into the van and go play X-Box games. The boy said he told the man ‘no’ and rode his bike home to report the exchange to his mother. He described the man as tanned, wearing sunglasses and a hoodie. The van was described as dark green, similar to a delivery van.
MARCH 14th, 2012: Sometime between 12:30pm and 1pm in Forest City, Iowa a ten year old boy in front of his home, said he was approached by an Asian male, approximately fifty years old and with a thin face. The suspect was driving an older gray van, possible bearing Iowa license plates. The man reportedly tried to lure the boy into his van after asking directions to a church. The boy gave him directions to the church but the man said he did not understand him and asked the boy to get into his van and show him where the church was. The boy’s mother then came out of the house and volunteered to show the man where the church was. She drove to the church in her vehicle with the suspect following. When she came to the church, the man driving the van did not stop and drove away.
AUGUST 4th, 2011: In Sioux City, Iowa police are investigating a report from Riverside, Iowa that at noon two men in a 1990’s blue and silver van with weathered paint, approached an eleven year old girl and a nine year old boy in the 1100 block of Pacquette Avenue. The driver of the van is described as being in his thirties. He is obese, has a goatee and has tattoos on his neck and arms. His ear lobes are stretched out and he has large black plugs in the holes. At the time of the attempted abduction, he was wearing a black shirt, police said. The other suspect is about five feet ten inches tall and weighs about two hundred and thirty pounds, police said. He has short dark hair and tattoos all over his arms. He speaks with an accent, and was wearing a mask over his face. One of the men allegedly told the children that they were friends with their mother, who was hurt. He told the children to get into the van, but they refused. The children told police that the men got out of the van and tried to grab them, but they were able to flee to their grandparents’ house.
Since 2005, Sioux City police have received five reports of people attempting to entice a child into a vehicle.
SEPTEMBER 2009: The following video report is from September 2009 and it contains five attempts to abduct in Pella, New Sharon, Des Moines and Knoxville, Iowa.
Please take a moment and notice the descriptions, the tactics and in some cases the brazen approach of these situations. It would be foolish not to acknowledge that all of the claims may not be legitimate, but it would be even more foolish to disregard the claims and not take precautions.
This information is to strongly encourage ALL parents, guardians and caretakers to talk with your children about safety and the sooner those discussions begin the better. Not to scare them unnecessarily but to help them understand the dangers and what they need to do when confronted with situations like the ones mentioned here.
A great safety video, although perhaps a bit zany yet practical, for children to learn to distinguish between people they know, kind of know and don’t know and what to do in each scenario is called The Safe Side… Stranger Safety: Hot Tips To Keep Cool Kids Safe With People They Don’t Know And Kinda Know. It is the collaboration of Julie Clark, the creator of Baby Einstein and John Walsh, the host of America’s Most Wanted.