Possible link between abduction attempt, missing girls probed

Police say they're investigating cases nationwide for possible links

UPDATE: An abduction attempt of a 5-year-old boy was stopped by the boy’s father Tuesday in southwest Cedar Rapids, police said.

The boy was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk in the 7500 block of Kirkwood Boulevard SW around 5:30 p.m. when a white 1990s Chevrolet Astro van pulled over next to him. A man and a woman got out, grabbed the boy and the bike and started leading him toward the van, police said.

“They had grabbed ahold of him by the arm or shoulder, and the woman was getting the bike,” Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said.

Police said the boy’s father, who was on a motorcycle just down the street, saw the incident and yelled at the two suspects, who then let go of the boy, got back in the van and drove south.

Police were not notified of the incident until about three hours later.

The incident came one week after a suspicious incident with a man in a white van near Linn-Mar High School in Marion. On the afternoon of July 24, a man was stopped at an intersection on 10th Street when he asked a 14-year-old boy on a bike if he wanted some candy, police said.

Lt. Scott Elam said no physical contact was made, and the boy immediately took off on his bike. Police said they are unsure if there is any connection between the incidents in Marion and Cedar Rapids.

Elam said the highly publicized case in Evansdale, where police believe two cousins were abducted on July 13, has heightened awareness about potentially suspicious activity.

“I think everybody’s a little on edge about that,” Elam said.

Kent Smock, chief of the Evansdale Police Department, said he is aware of Tuesday’s attempted abduction. He said his department also looks into other kidnapping and missing children reports from across the nation for possible parallels with the disappearance of Elizabeth Collins, 9, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10.

Only a few abduction attempts are reported in Cedar Rapids each year, Hamblin said. She said arrests are extremely rare, usually due to a lack of descriptive information.

Hamblin said the father in Tuesday’s incident did a great job identifying the make and model of the van, and physical descriptions of the suspects. Other clues, such as license plate information, can be helpful in an investigation.

“There isn’t one specific piece of information that’s most important,” Hamblin said. “It’s just getting as much information as possible.”

Police said the person who grabbed the boy was a white man in his 30s, about 5-foot-8 and 120 pounds, with short brown hair. The white female suspect was in her 20s, with a thin build and shoulder-length brown hair. She had a tattoo hear her left thumb. A third person, who was driving the van, was a white man with a larger build wearing glasses.

A police investigator was at the father’s house Wednesday afternoon and said the man did not want to talk to reporters.

Police were planning to notify school districts about the incident to take advantage of parent networks, even though most schools are not in session. Emails already had been circulating between parents early Wednesday morning.

Hamblin said parents should educate their children about what to do if they are approached by a stranger.

“This isn’t something people should be afraid of,” Hamblin said. “You just need to be aware.”

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