The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Finding van is key in abduction investigation
Information about a blue work van seen in Spotsylvania’s Holleybrooke subdivision several times over the past week may be key to solving what police are classifying as a possible child abduction on July Fourth, authorities said Friday morning.
Around 1:40 p.m. Thursday, a witness reported seeing a boy being pulled into that van against his will, leaving a bicycle behind.
The Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office, working with state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had not received a missing child report as of Friday, but said the holiday could be complicating matters if families had diverging plans.
“This is a unique situation, to say the least,” Capt. Jeff Pearce of the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office told reporters. “. . . Because of this day and this time and this holiday, it could still be the case the parents were not home or were out of town. . . .This may be someone’s child who doesn’t realize their child is missing, so the fact that we haven’t gotten a call doesn’t necessarily mean that a crime hasn’t been committed.”
No other information was released throughout the day as the search continued for the 12- or 13-year-old white boy of slight build, with light brown hair, wearing a red-and-white striped shirt and blue cargo pants.
At least 60 county, state and federal law enforcement members, along with fire and emergency crews, were working to solve the many unanswered questions in the case, as police interviewed residents and investigated the numerous tips coming into the station, Pearce said.
The state issued an endangered missing child report Thursday, but not an Amber Alert since the child’s identity was unknown. Law enforcement in the state were aware of the situation.
“We’re going to err on the side of caution until we can put this to rest,” Pearce said nearly 24 hours after the child was reportedly taken.
According to police, the witness reported seeing a man get out of a blue van just before 2 p.m. Thursday and pull the boy in; the struggle took 5 to 10 seconds, Pearce said. The boy reportedly had been riding a black bike with a rear flat tire, and used that to defend himself, Pearce said. The bike was left on the side of Holleybrooke Drive.
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 had recently been repaired. A decal was on the bottom left door.
“This is a critical piece of information that we have,” Pearce said. “We’ve gotten this information from multiple sources.”
Neighbors in the Holleybrooke subdivision, a quiet neighborhood with a community pool off Smith Station Road, told police they had seen the van in the neighborhood several times recently.
Police did not know the vehicle’s license plate.
“We need to know who owns this vehicle,” Pearce said.
The driver was 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-style pants that were dirty, muddy and stained, as if he had come from some type of work site, Pearce said.
Construction projects are ongoing in the neighborhood and greater area, and Pearce said police were contacting those businesses and crews for possible connections.
Pearce would not say if the witness had taken a photograph or video of the incident. He recommended that if someone ever thinks they’re witnessing something that isn’t right, to pull out a cellphone to document it and share that with authorities.
Pearce said 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. Specifics on the witness’s location were not disclosed.
Many pieces of information had been corroborated by neighbors, Pearce said. Some had seen a child of that description 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 FBI was called in early Thursday afternoon and was assisting with the investigation.
“We’re bringing all the necessary resources,” said special-agent-in charge Jeff Mazanec, of the Richmond FBI headquarters. “We believe this type of crime is serious and we want to address it quickly and with all resources.”
The possibility that a parent was trying to corral an unruly child is not being dismissed, Pearce said. But if that’s the case, police want the family to contact law enforcement so that the search can end.
CAN YOU HELP?
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office at 540/582-7115.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975