Two north Minneapolis children gave an eyewitness account Sunday afternoon of the abduction of their 7-year-old playmate, adding that they are still frightened a day after their encounter with a man in a black hooded coat.
After an anxious two hours on Saturday afternoon, the girl was returned to the home of her baby sitter on the 3100 block of James Avenue N.
In an interview Sunday, Annette Beaty, the mother of the woman who was caring for the child, gave a more detailed account of the events leading up to the little girl’s disappearance.
It was early afternoon when Beaty’s granddaughter pushed open the front door of the yellow two-story house, saying the 7-year-old girl had been kidnapped.
Moments earlier, Beaty’s daughter and the girl’s mother had been upstairs talking as the four children — the 7-year-old girl, her younger sister, and two of Beaty’s grandchildren — played in the living room downstairs. Beaty’s daughter, a friend of the little girl’s mother, had watched the 7-year-old the night before.
Without permission, Beaty said, the four children left the living room and went outside to play with shovels in the wet snow. Asked how long the children were outside unnoticed, Beaty said, “Nobody knows how long it was.”
The girl’s mother ran outside when the children reported what had happened. It was the granddaughter who told her the little girl had walked off with a strange man after he asked them if they wanted to help “find his puppy.”
Speaking on Sunday, the granddaughter said she was a bit scared when the man approached, and told him and her friend “no.” But her friend went anyway.
A neighbor’s surveillance video of the exchange shows a man wearing a black hooded coat holding a dog’s leash approaching the children in front of Beaty’s home.
The granddaughter described the man’s appearance as “scary,” with “pink blotches on his face” and gray hair.
“ ‘Grandma, that was a stranger,’ ” Beaty said of her granddaughter describing the man. The encounter lasted long enough, at close range, that the children could describe the details of his face to police investigators.
Officers arrived within minutes, as friends, neighbors and other family members began searching for the girl.
Beaty said the distraught mother kept telling her, “Annette, I hope my daughter is OK.”
Police told the group that using a puppy or another animal is the “oldest luring trick” in the book. A similar incident happened not long ago in the same neighborhood, but the victim was dropped off at a nearby supermarket, Beaty said.
Beaty’s neighbor supplied the police with his surveillance video, which also showed the man hurrying away and looking back several times as the little girl followed him.
The abducted girl’s family didn’t make any public statements Saturday as the events unfolded, and could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The incident ended late Saturday afternoon, as dusk fell, when police officers spotted a young girl wearing a white coat walking alone toward them. They asked her name and immediately drove her to Beaty’s home.
An officer was holding the girl’s hand as she walked up the street and then ran into her father’s arms crying. Her mother was still inside, in shock, when Beaty told her: “There’s your daughter!”
Back inside the home and surrounded by family and police, Beaty said, the girl described the incident. She remembered being on a freeway and then going to another house. The man opened the door to the house and acted surprised as a dog greeted them. She started crying, “because she doesn’t like dogs,” the girl’s mother told Beaty. The man then drove the girl back to the neighborhood where he picked her up because “she was crying,” she added.
“Only the grace of God,” Beaty said.
Minneapolis police said Sunday they are still searching for the suspect, described by the children as a white man in his 30s, wearing a black jacket with horizontal stripes. No new information was available Sunday night.