A West Baltimore man is being held on charges that he abducted a 4-year-old girl from an elementary school last week and then demanded ransom money from the mother.
Ronald Louis Hall, 22, of the 1300 block of W. Mosher St. was charged with kidnapping, abduction and extortion.
He was being held yesterday in lieu of $150,000 bail in the Baltimore City Detention Center and has an April 7 hearing date.
School officials said teachers at Bentalou Elementary School in the 200 block of N. Bentalou St., were concerned and "very upset" over the incident, which occurred just after the girl's mother dropped her off for a prekindergarten class.
"We have never had an abduction before," said Nat Harrington, a spokesman for the city school system, adding that the Bentalou staff "run a very tight ship. . . . They were concerned about how this could happen and who would do this to a child."
Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman, said the suspect -- the girl's mother's ex-boyfriend -- watched as Regina Oliver dropped off her daughter, Jasmine Higgins, at the school March 7 about 8:45 a.m. When the mother left, the man walked into the building.
Police said the man told members of the office staff that he had to take the girl for a dentist appointment.
Mr. Harrington disputed that account, saying Mr. Hall walked by the office and remained out of view in a hallway, then beckoned the child from outside the classroom.
The man took the girl to an unknown location, where he called the mother, police said. "I've got your daughter. Get enough money for me to leave town," he told her, according to Mr. Ringgold. The spokesman added that the man told Ms. Oliver that if she called police, he would harm the child. Mr. Ringgold said the man instructed Ms. Oliver to get a room at the North Avenue Motel, in the 100 block of W. North Ave., and bring the money. He gave her one hour.
Ms. Oliver called police, and city homicide detectives helped her get a room at the motel and set up a meeting time.
Officers arrested Mr. Hall when he arrived.
Police found Jasmine, who was not harmed, across the street inside a McDonald's restaurant.
The girl's mother could not be reached for comment yesterday. But Mr. Harrington said Jasmine has not been back to school since the incident.
"The man who took the child circumvented the school's tight security measures," the school system said in a prepared statement. "A child's school is still one of the safest places he or she can be during the day. Families and schools have to work together to be vigilant against incidents like this."
Mr. Harrington said the school system has no plans to change its procedures at the elementary school.
"They are doing everything that can be done," the spokesman said, explaining that only one door into the building is unlocked, and that leads visitors directly to the main office, where they must check in. "Security can't get any tighter unless they have armed guards."