For sale: One 4-year-old boy.
That recent advertisement on a popular classifieds Web site has triggered a sheriff’s investigation into who was behind it.
Was it a hoax, a desperate cry for help or something more sinister?
Investigators haven’t determined, but they’ve seized records from Craigslist they hope will hold clues to the poster’s identity.
For now, they’re tight-lipped about an investigation that began when a Spokane woman spotted a Craigslist ad offering a boy named Gavin for $5,000 and contacted authorities.
“It’s kind of at a delicate point right now,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
A Spokane woman saw the ad late Feb. 28. It included a photo of a small child in a yellow fireman’s helmet and a dark shirt with the word “adventure” on the front.
The ad had been posted just before 11 p.m. the previous day but had been removed by Craigslist when the woman returned to the site after copying the text – but not the photo – into a computer word processing program.
The ad’s author claimed to be the boy’s father.
The author said the boy was a “great kid” but that he could no longer afford to care for him. The boy loves basketball, football and soccer but doesn’t play with cars, refuses to eat vegetables and can scream for hours at a time.
“But he always has a smile on his face,” according to the ad.
“It is going to kill me to do this but as I stated before I cannot afford to keep him. His Motherr is out of the picture and my parents no longer talk to me since I’ve had Gavin,” the ad read, according to the search warrant. “So I don’t know what else to do other than find a good family with kids or a couple that wants a son.”
The seller, who identified himself as Rick Obelophy, said he wouldn’t give the boy “to anyone.”
“I want to meet with you and make sure you will be fit parents,” the ad read.
Investigators can’t find any record for Rick Obelophy. The ad requested interested buyers respond to an anonymous e-mail set up through Craigslist.
A request for a search warrant filed Monday by detectives sought records for that e-mail address and any data associated with the ad from Craigslist headquarters in San Francisco. Investigators aren’t ready to talk about more details, Reagan said.
Selling or buying minor children in Washington is a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.