The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Spotsy abduction investigation continues
UPDATE: (6:34 p.m.) From the Virginia State Police: The Endangered Child Alert for the Spotsylvania County incident has been cancelled in compliance with the program guidelines. The Alert is only to be run for 24 hours and the 24 hour window expired a short while ago. This does not mean the search/investigation into the incident has ceased. For the latest on the efforts to locate the child, please contact the lead investigative agency – Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.
UPDATE: (1:15 p.m.) Police believe identifying a blue work van, which neighbors reported seeing all week and may have been used in a possible abduction Thursday, is crucial in solving the case that still lacks a missing child report but is being treated as a crime.
“We all realize this is something of an anomaly,” Capt. Jeff Pearce of the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office told media in a briefing around 11:30 a.m. Friday. He didn’t anticipate any further updates unless the case was solved.
Around 1:40 p.m., a witness reported seeing a 12- or 13-year-old white boy, about 5’2″ and of a slight build, pulled into a blue work van against his will. He reportedly had been riding a black bike with a rear flat tire, and used that to defend himself, Pearce said.
The work van is described as medium blue, with two swing-out doors on the back. The door on the left had a tinted window; the right one did not. There was a primer spot on the right side, as if it recently been repaired, and a decal was on the bottom left door.
“This is a critical piece of information we have,” Pearce said. Over the past 24 hours, police conducted hundreds of interviews with residents in the area, and looked into many tips, as they try to determine who the child and the man may be, and if this could be a situation between a parent and child.
Neighbors in the Holleybrooke subdivision, a quiet neighborhood off Smith Station Road, reported seeing the blue van several times this week.
The FBI and state police are assisting with the investigation.
Pearce said that police spent several hours with the key witness, and have no reason to doubt the person’s description, though he added that they’re not saying the details are 100 percent accurate. He said that the best advice for those who witness a potential crime would be to snap pictures or video on a cell phone camera. Pearce would not say if the witness did that in this case.
Many pieces of information have been corroborated by neighbors, Pearce said, some who saw the child earlier in the day riding the black bike with approximately 20-inch wheels and high handlebars. Police do not know if the bike belonged to the child.
The driver of the blue van is reported as being a Hispanic male, about 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall, and about 180 to 200 pounds. There was a possibility he had two-toned hair, with darker or lighter portions, but Pearce said the information was not verified. The suspect was reportedly wearing a black tank top and black cargo painter’s pants that were dirty and stained, Pearce said. Construction projects are ongoing in the neighborhood and greater area, and Pearce said police were contacting those businesses and crews for possible leads.
UPDATE: (12:18 p.m.) Police have released this photo of a bicycle that the boy was believed to have been riding yesterday. According to Capt. Pearce, the child was using the bicycle to defend himself from the abductor.
Officials say they are still looking for the child and blue work van that are cited in the possible abduction from yesterday, nearly 24 hours later. That description is key, Capt. Jeff Pearce says. They don’t expect to give any further updates today unless the case is resolved. More to come.
Find the original story below:
BY KATIE THISDELL
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Police and federal investigators worked into the night searching for a blue work van and 12- or 13-year-old boy with a small build believed to have been abducted Thursday from the Holleybrooke subdivision in Spotsylvania County.
As of press time, the boy had yet to be identified, and police had not found a medium blue van and its driver.
More than 500 interviews were conducted Thursday by investigators, including residents of the neighborhood and others who contacted police, according to Capt. Jeff Pearce of the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office.
Officers would be in the neighborhood overnight working on the case, he said.
The case is being treated as an abduction after a woman told police that she saw the van pull aside the boy earlier in the afternoon as he had stopped beside his bike, pull him against his will into the van and speed off, Pearce said.
He said the boy was reportedly screaming and resisting, and that the van sped through two stop signs in the neighborhood, leaving in an unknown direction.
The 1:40 p.m. call kicked off hours of searching, and state police and the FBI were called in to help. A helicopter searched overhead, and crime scene tape enclosed an area on the subdivision’s main thoroughfare.
At a news briefing Thursday night, Pearce provided a more detailed description of the van. He said it was medium blue, with two doors opening on the rear. The door on the left had a tinted window; the right one did not. There was a primer spot on the right side and a decal was on the bottom left door.
The suspect was described as an Hispanic male, in his mid-20s or 30s, 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall, and about 180 to 200 pounds. He was wearing a black tank top and black cargo painter’s pants that were dirty and stained.
Meanwhile the boy was described as “very, very slight,” 5-foot-2 with brown hair in a Justin Bieber-style haircut. He was wearing a red-and-white striped shirt and blue cargo pants.
The boy was seen riding the black bicycle with a flat tire earlier in the day, Pearce said. As the man was trying to grab the boy, Pearce said the boy was hanging on to the bike.
Holiday celebrations complicated the search, Pearce said. The department had not received any calls about a missing child by press time.
Police weren’t ruling out that the incident could also have been a parent trying to corral a child refusing to cooperate.
“It’s OK. We need to know that, as well,” Pearce said, hoping someone would provide more information.
A heavy presence of police was evident throughout the subdivision, a typically quiet, neatly tended suburban area off Smith Station Road in northeastern Spotsylvania. As officers stopped drivers at the neighborhood’s entrance, and nearby Cobblestone subdivision, to ask questions, sounds of children playing in the pool wafted into cars.
“It’s really scary,” said Erin Porter, a mother of six who lives a few houses from the scene of the possible abduction on Holleybrooke Drive. She and neighbor Faye Hall said that they typically notice all the children that play on the street, and that it’s rare for anyone to be alone. They couldn’t recall seeing a boy matching the police description. Porter said her baby sitter may have seen him riding a bike with a distinctive sound of flat tires earlier that day.
Porter doesn’t allow her children to play in the front yard, preferring the safety of a fenced backyard.
“You just don’t think anything is going to happen,” added Hall.
Police said the search would go on all night.
“When we run out of leads, when we don’t have anything else we can do, then we’ll back down and modify the search,” Pearce said. “However, we don’t give up the investigation.”
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975