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A quick arrest in Coon Rapids abduction

  • Article by: Tom Ford
  • Star Tribune
  • May 5, 2007 - 10:38 PM

Once reports came in that a stranger had abducted and assaulted a 12-year-old girl Friday on her way to her school bus stop, just about every Coon Rapids police staffer, along with several Anoka County sheriff's officials and a State Patrol helicopter crew, began trying to track down the suspect, said Sgt. Tom Hawley.

And in only about an hour, investigators had identified the alleged culprit, Hawley said.

Charges against the 46-year-old man, who was arrested early Saturday at his home blocks away from the abduction scene, are expected to be filed by midday Tuesday. The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects until after they are charged.

News of the arrest was a welcome relief to the girl's family and her neighbors, who said Saturday they were still shaken by the crime.

"I hope this never has to happen to anyone else," said the girl's stepfather, Steve Otterness, who added that his stepdaughter is doing well.

"You always think of Jacob Wetterling," after such an incident, said Judy LeMoine, a mom who lives across the street from the girl's cul-de-sac. "When [your children] get to a certain age, you start to think they're safe because they're bigger."But a 12-year-old is still pretty young."

Police were alerted to the crime about 8:20 a.m. Friday.

The girl, a sixth-grader at Northland Middle School, was walking alone to her bus stop near 132nd Avenue and Martin Street when the alleged suspect drove up to her in his red Chevy Suburban, Hawley said.

He apparently asked her for directions, and when she approached, he grabbed her and pulled her inside, Hawley said. After what police estimate was 10 to 15 minutes in the SUV, she managed to escape at the corner of 133rd Avenue NW. and Thrush Street, Hawley said. The girl, who suffered a bloody nose, went to a nearby house and a family took her home.

Armed with descriptions of the abductor and his vehicle, police officials ran that information through their records.

Sgt. Rick Boone said police interviewed the man on April 25 after two sisters reported that he had driven by them several times and asked them if they wanted a ride as they walked home from a park between 9 and 9:30 that night.

Boone said the girls screamed at the man and told him to leave, then went home and told their mother what had happened. He said the mother then drove the neighborhood with her daughters and found the man's vehicle nearby. She also called police.

"He denied doing anything wrong," Boone said. "He was trying to be a nice guy."

Boone said a background check showed the man was not a registered sex offender and had no criminal record. But when Friday's incident occurred, investigators immediately thought of him. "We came up on that very early on," Boone said.

Hawley declined to describe the evidence that was collected at the home of the man, who was booked at the Anoka County jail on probable cause of kidnapping, second-degree assault and first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

For neighbors, the case is baffling. Paul Jaworski said the man has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade. He said the man used to drive race cars and coach youth basketball teams. According to Jaworski and other neighbors, the man also had been having disputes with his live-in girlfriend, who had recently moved out.

At the girl's home, her stepfather said although she will likely go to school Monday, it might be a while before she returns to the bus stop. "She's a very strong young lady," he said.

Staff writer Richard Meryhew contributed to this report. Tom Ford • 612-673-4921 • tford@startribune.com

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