DAVENPORT, Wash. – The 15-year-old boy accused in the attempted abduction of a toddler from Sprague’s town park this week was denied bail on Friday.
The teenager pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree kidnapping. He is accused of scooping up a 22-month-old boy from a stroller at City Park in Sprague just after noon Sunday and running away with the toddler in his arms. The child’s two older siblings gave chase, as did two teenagers who heard the commotion. The abductor put the child down at the edge of a vacant lot and escaped.
The boy’s attorney, Christian Phelps, argued that bail and release conditions should be set. Deputy prosecuting attorney Melvin Hoit said he would be willing to consider a $100,000 bond with the boy to be on house arrest if released, but said he would prefer that the teen remain in custody.
“There is a concern,” he said. “Apparently there are other children in that house.”
Lincoln County Judge John Strohmaier sided with the prosecution.
“I am concerned about community safety issues,” he said.
Strohmaier said he also would be concerned for the safety of the teen if he was released.
“He has gained some notoriety,” he said.
The Spokesman-Review generally does not name juveniles charged in crimes.
The case has gained national attention since the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance footage of the attempted abduction and pleaded for information to help solve the case.
After the hearing, Phelps said he doesn’t believe his client would be in danger if released.
“This is still a pretty safe community,” he said. “I don’t think we would have vigilante justice.”
Lincoln County Prosecutor Jeff Barkdull said he was pleased by the judge’s decision.
“The town of Sprague is very concerned about the safety of their children,” he said.
Investigators reviewed video surveillance from several Sprague businesses that showed the abductor. The teen was identified as a suspect after Undersheriff Kelly Watkins believed he recognized the teen, said Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers.
Watkins and Chief Criminal Deputy Brian Telford visited Sprague High School and watched the suspect, noting that he had a similar walk to the person in the video. When the teenager was interviewed, he denied any involvement in the attempted abduction, according to court documents. Deputies recovered a recently ripped and stained jacket from the teen’s room that matched the one seen in the video.
The boy’s grandfather told investigators that he dropped the teen off at St. John’s Lutheran Church that morning wearing a suit jacket and tie, according to court documents. The teen, who lives with the grandfather, was supposed to be at the fire hall for a community service project for school at noon. However, a witness said he didn’t show up until 1 p.m.
Investigators took DNA samples from the 22-month-old victim and plan to compare that to dried fluid found on the front of the teen’s jacket. They also collected fingerprints from a Baptism book found where the boy was taken. A witness said the suspect had recently been given such a book, according to court documents. A religious flier from the church where the teen had attended a worship service that day was also found at the scene. It had Sunday’s date on it.
Michelle Barrus filed a police report in June alleging that the same teenager took her 11-year-old autistic son by the hand and led him out of her yard. The teen stopped when she yelled at him. The case was investigated by deputies, but the deputy prosecutor said there wasn’t enough evidence to support a charge of child luring.
Barrus said Thursday that she was aware of other similar incidents involving children in the time since she made her report.
Magers confirmed Friday that he has heard from other parents since it became known who was arrested as a suspect in the abduction. None of the incidents he heard about appeared to rise to the level of a crime, he said.
The teen is being held in a juvenile detention facility in Spokane. He is scheduled to appear in court again on April 10.
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