Authorities urge caution regarding strangers

February 21, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Scioto County Sheriff’s Captain David Hall says a Wheelersburg resident who reported a suspicous vehicle in her neighborhood because of the danger of child abductions, has helped the Sheriff’s Office located a stolen vehicle.

“We had a stolen car up in Wheelersburg this (Thursday) morning,” Hall said. “People report all the time about strange vehicles trying to pick up kids and watching for things like that. Deputy Paula Gibson said, ‘I talk to neighborhoods all the time, about if you see a strange car, call the office because it might be somebody trying to pick up kids.’ A lady on Lawson Street saw a strange car and called it in because of what Paula had told them and it ended up being a stolen car.”

Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine reminded parents Thursday to talk with their children about how to respond if approached by a suspicious person.

DeWine made the suggestion after members of his Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons units discovered several similar incidents of child enticement and attempted abductions happening in Ohio, West Virginia, and Michigan.

“Our agents are working right now to determine if these cases are connected, but regardless of whether these crimes are being committed by one person or multiple offenders, it is a very serious situation,” DeWine said.

If approached by a stranger, DeWine suggests that children make a commotion; Yell ‘No!’ or ‘Help!’; run away immediately. Keep a large distance between themselves and a vehicle, if approached by someone in a car, take all suspicious situations seriously. Do not be afraid to hurt a person’s feelings by screaming or running. DeWine said, if possible, consciously make note of details such as a person’s appearance, clothing, vehicle, and license plate. He said children need to know that it is OK to tell their parents what happened and not to feel ashamed.

DeWine also said that parents should walk to and from school with their children or arrange for them to walk with friends. Knowing the route their children take to and from school is also suggested. Walk with their children along the route and identify safe places to go if an incident occurs.

DeWine said last week, agents with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which includes the Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons units, issued a statewide alert to law enforcement to make them aware of the incidents that have happened in the past several months and weeks.

In each case, the suspect has approached girls and boys between the ages of nine and 15 while driving a white, windowless panel van, which could be a commercial vehicle. The driver has then encouraged the kids to talk with him and get into the van. At the time of each incident, the children had all been walking home after school.

“Luckily none of these children gave in to these attempts,” DeWine said. “They knew exactly what to do.”

If the cases are connected, agents suspect that the individual is someone whose job requires him to travel frequently.

The suspect is described as a white male in his mid to late 40s or early 50s; 5-foot-8-inches to 5-foot-9-inches with brown hair, a possible mustache and wearing a baseball hat with glasses or sunglasses.

DeWine said anyone involved in a situation of that nature should immediately contact their local law enforcement agency. Anyone with additional information regarding previous crimes similar to the described incidents should also contact their local police or BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO.

The Attorney General also reminds parents to be aware of sex offenders living in their neighborhoods. Ohio’s sex offender registry is available on the Attorney General’s website, and the local offenders in your area can be located on the Scioto County Sheriff’s website.

“When they go to our website, it will link us with the database at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office,” Scioto County Sheriff’s Captain David Hall said. “That database is the same database that I register sex offenders in and will actually show if people want to search for offenders by location; by school district; by community. They can search by all of those, where sex offenders live.”

Hall recently entered the name of a registered sex offender for nationwide pick up. The Scioto County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warrant for the arrest of Richard Colley of Lucasville, a registered sex offender out of Niagara Falls.

“We’ve issued a warrant for his arrest because he didn’t register,” Hall said. “He was supposed to register, and on July 30 I had to send him a letter, and do some verification processes with him, filing a warrant for him back in September and since then the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office has been attempting to locate him. So now we have an active warrant for him for failure to register, a felony of the third degree.”

Hall said Colley had been incarcerated in Niagara Falls, and that he came to Scioto County from Niagara Falls.

“He registered a couple of times, but this time he didn’t come in during his normal annual sign up period,” Hall said.

Colley was convicted on Sept. 28, 2010, of sexual abuse, a second degree felony, and sexual contact with a person less than 14 years of age. Hall said Colley’s last known address was Dever Branch Road in Lucasville.

“If anyone sees him, they can call me at the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, or their local law enforcement agency,” Hall said.

Hall’s office number is 740-355-8253. The regular Sheriff’s Office number is 740-355-8261.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com.