Girl recants claim of abduction 10-year-old says she made up story

July 21, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

A 10-year-old Eldersburg girl who said a man tried to abduct her Sunday recanted her story yesterday, state police said.

Tfc. Michael Cain said he had called the girl's parents yesterday afternoon to say he was coming to their home to question the girl again.

When he arrived, he said, the girl had told her parents she made up the story, and then she told him.

Trooper Cain said he asked her why, but she couldn't give a reason. He indicated no legal action is planned against the child for making a false report.

It is the second such false report of an abduction attempt in Carroll in four months. On March 30, a 10-year-old Hampstead boy reported that some men tried to force him and a classmate into a white van.

Hampstead Chief Kenneth Russell later said that after talking to the two boys, he determined the incident was not an attempted abduction, but an exchange of words: The boys had yelled something to the teen-agers in the van, and one of the teens got out and started to chase them.

Trooper Cain said police and parents should still investigate any claim of abduction that a child makes.

"Unless you have something to indicate otherwise, you have to assume your child is telling you the truth," he said.

But, he said, children should also be told that making a false report is illegal.

The girl's report Sunday night sent a wave of fear through the neighborhood, and prompted parents to keep a closer watch on their children.

A resident arranged a meeting on safety tips for parents. The meeting is still on; a state police officer will provide summer safety suggestions at 7:30 p.m. today at the Piney Ridge Village basketball courts.

The girl had described a man in a white van who she said stopped her for directions while she was riding her bicycle about 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Piney Ridge Drive and Freedom Avenue, not far from her home.

She said he forced her at gunpoint into the van, but that she was able to escape at a traffic light to a friend's house and call police.

Piney Ridge Village is a community of families who said they moved away from one city or another so their children could play safely and freely.

"We all reacted the way we were supposed to," said Sharon Allia of Tamarack Drive, who has two children.

She said she probably will continue to be more cautious.

"It makes you realize something like this could happen," shsaid.

She said that, after the report, parents began having childrecheck in with them every 15 minutes, play only where they are supervised or call when they arrive at their friends' homes.

Mrs. Allia said she was walking her dog Sunday night when she saw the girl who reported the abduction coming home. She said the girl was on her bike, "crying her eyes out" while riding, and her father and a state police officer were driving behind her slowly.

"We thought maybe she fell off her bike," Mrs. Allia said. "We thought nothing about it."

But by later that night, she said, the report "went through the neighborhood like wildfire."

That night, no one in the family got any sleep, she said.

Laura Rhodes of Black Spruce Lane, who organized tonight's meeting, said parents need to realize their quiet streets are not crime-proof.

Ms. Rhodes, a former sexual assault counselor, said she is not convinced the girl made up the abduction report. She said the child may have recanted to avoid being mistreated by the legal system.

"The system is harder on the victim than the actual assault is," Ms. Rhodes said.

She said neighbors have been talking of other sightings of "a white van" in Hampstead, or Ellicott City, and in the Piney Ridge neighborhood.

While those sightings could be rumors that simply get passed around, she said, she isn't taking any chances. "For the sake of my children, I'm going to be watching every white van -- including my own -- that comes down the street," she said. Ms. Rhodes drives a white van.

"A lot of people have this feeling -- you live in Carroll County and you're safe," she said. "You don't move away from this: It's everywhere."

Two years ago, Ms. Rhodes said, she wasn't able to get any other Piney Ridge resident to sign up as a McGruff Safe House, a program sponsored by the Maryland State Police. After the police run criminal checks on everyone in the household, they issue a sign that lets children know they can run to the home for refuge if approached by a stranger.

She participates in the program, but knows of no other homes that signed on. She said it took nine months to get approval because of staff shortages at the time.

She is hoping more residents will participate now.

Ms. Rhodes said she had been feeling guilty lately for being more restrictive with her 7-year-old daughter than the parents of the girl's friends.

"I had been considering giving her more freedom, but it's not going to happen now," she said.

"I tell them all the time: Adults don't need help from children," she said, referring to the girl's report that the man asked for directions.

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