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Police Find Kidnap Hoax, End Search

December 05, 1991|ROXANA KOPETMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Jefferson Middle School student led Long Beach police on a wild, daylong hunt Tuesday for a girl she said had been kidnaped. But, more than 14 hours later, she recanted her story and the search involving more than 50 police officers, 20 Explorer Scouts, about 50 volunteer ham radio operators and several park rangers was called off.

"This young lady had a very vivid imagination, and she led us to believe it was true," Sgt. Charles Higley said Wednesday.

Police began scouring the eastside area shortly after 8 a.m. when the student said she saw a man in a pickup truck abduct a blond girl on 8th Street near Bennett Avenue.

The witness said that she first saw the man when he exposed himself to her and her older sister, a Wilson High School student, according to police.

After walking her older sister to school, the Jefferson student said she saw the same man kidnap a teen-age girl. She vividly described the girl to police, down to black anklet socks that matched her black-and-white outfit.

Although no parents reported a missing child, the detailed description of both the girl and the alleged assailant was convincing enough to lead officers, scouts and park rangers on a door-to-door search for information.

Some investigators spent the day calling parents of absentee blond high school girls, and others tapped into computer programs for a search of anyone who could fit the description of the alleged kidnaper, said Cmdr. Ray Jordan.

The search was called off around 9:30 p.m. after investigators interviewed the witness again and she recanted the story about the kidnaping. But she and her sister stuck by their story that they were victims of an indecent exposure, police said.

Investigators did not provide a motive for the phony kidnaping claim nor estimate the cost of the search. They did not say whether they will charge the girl's parents for the expense of the search.

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