Ponderings on abductions and “abductions”

The East Valley Tribune did a very nice recap article about Mikelle Biggs, who was abducted ten years ago this month and never found. Her disappearance is, as they like to say, every parent’s worst nightmare: she was within yards of home, and out of sight for two minutes at the most, and she vanished into thin air without a trace or a sound. Apparently she was grabbed off the street and didn’t even have time to scream — or, if she did, no one heard her cries. As the article says, the case is basically going nowhere and is likely to remain cold until a body or a confession pops up. If that ever happens.

This kind of disappearance is, thankfully, as rare as it is terrifying. Estimates are that there are only about 50 “stereotypical” kidnappings a year — that is, children forcibly taken by a stranger and harmed or held overnight or longer. Even Mikelle’s case might not qualify; another article says her parents suspect a man who lived in their neighborhood. It’s possible Mikelle knew him, if only slightly.

Offhand, I think there are only a couple of dozen children’s cases on the Charley Project that I would definitely say were stranger abductions. There are probably more than that, but many times I don’t have enough information to tell, or the police don’t have enough information. Elizabeth Smart, as I mentioned previously, would probably have been considered a runaway, at least at first, if her sister hadn’t seen her kidnapped at knifepoint. (And she’d met one of her abductors before. The man was still pretty much a stranger to her, but you could argue that her having met him disqualifies her as a stereotypical kidnapping. But I digress.) Other cases are possible abductions, but the circumstances really aren’t clear. Aaron Anderson, for instance, could well have been abducted. On the other hand, he could also have fallen into a river near his home. For years the police focused on the drowning theory to the exclusion of other possibilities; now they admit that was probably a mistake. But no one saw anything, so who can tell? Aaron could have drowned. He could have been murdered. He could be alive now somewhere, not knowing his true identity, not knowing there’s anything amiss in his life.

Because these kidnappings are so uncommon, the police tend to be suspicious when one is reported. A child is many times more likely to be killed by a member of their own family than to be kidnapped. In Mikelle’s case, her family was cleared of suspicion and I’m pretty sure her disappearance is exactly what it appears to be. But often they aren’t, as in the Lucy Meadows case. I had my doubts about her case for a long time, because it just seemed hinky that a little girl could get snatched in the time it took for her mother to walk around the side of the car, and no one saw or heard anything. A kidnapper would practically have to have supernatural powers of speed and invisibility to pull that off. I kept my doubts to myself, but a couple of years ago it came out that the police suspected Lucy’s mother, and they had a witness (probably Lucy’s brother, though that hasn’t been confirmed) to the child’s possible murder. No charges have been filed, but now I think we all know what happened there.

Another hinky “stranger abduction” is the 1983 disappearance of Marlena Childress. In this case, the mother later gave several conflicting stories about Marlena’s disappearance, including one where she caused the child’s death. Even more tellingly, fifteen years later Marlena’s mother later stabbed one of her other children. (Thankfully, he survived.) I suppose Marlena could still have been kidnapped, and so could Lucy, but as things are now, I seriously doubt that’s what happened.

Because stranger abductions, especially in recent years, are plastered all over the news, many parents are very afraid it could happen to their child. I spent much of my childhood wandering unsupervised in the woods and fields and roads around my home — that doesn’t happen much anymore. Children are kept indoors, or at least tethered to a cell phone. Many of those cell phones can be tracked by the parent on a computer, so they know where the phone (and, presumably, the child) is at all times.

Rationally speaking, parents really shouldn’t be so afraid of stranger kidnapping, because, as I said, it hardly ever happens. They ought to be more concerned about what’s going on within their child’s home and school and neighborhood, because that’s more most of the trouble happens. To use my own experience: I’m reasonably sure that, when I was about four, a neighbor tried to kidnap me. At any rate, he was trying to force me into his house, for no good reason, and against my will. When I said I didn’t want to go, he took my arm and started to pull me along with him. When I (literally) dug in my heels, he actually picked me up and started to carry me, but then I began kicking and screaming and he put me down quickly and told me to go home. When I saw the man a few days later, he again invited me to come inside his house, promising to give me a rose if I did so. I said no, and he left me alone after that. I didn’t really know what was going on at the time. All I knew was I didn’t want to go inside his house. Only many years later did I realize how suspicious this incident was. The man lived just at the end of my block, and, for all I know, he still does. He wasn’t a stranger to me; he’d lived down the street from me my whole life. I knew him, and my parents did too. Most kidnap victims are taken by family members, or at least people known to them.

But I get the feeling most people don’t know how rare stranger kidnapping really is. And even if they did know, it may not matter very much, because I’m convinced that having your child get kidnapped and never found is one of the worst things that can happen to you.

6 thoughts on “Ponderings on abductions and “abductions”

  1. Lacee January 4, 2009 / 7:55 pm

    Actually if you go Youtube & the Internet chat rooms you’d be surprised at how many people still think Elizabeth Smart ran away from home regardless of the witness & the evidence. Conspiracy lunatics are determined to believe the worst about everything & everybody.

  2. Emily January 5, 2009 / 3:55 pm

    When I was about 6 and my brother 2, he was nearly abducted in front of me. We were playing in the front yard and a car pulled up with a man and woman in it. The woman got out of the passenger side and walked toward my brother, who was sitting on a Big Wheel; I’d just learned about “stranger danger” in school and started shouting. My mom was already on the way to the screen door to check on us when she heard me and bolted out the door and into the yard. The lady ran back to the car and they tore off without a word…and we weren’t allowed to play in the front yard for a long time after that.

  3. Erin January 18, 2009 / 3:33 am

    At 4 or 5, my parents and I were visiting family in rural Pennsylvania. The house was on a hill at the end of a long driveway that had a circle area that allowed for turn around at the end of it. I was playing in the front yard when a man and woman drove up the driveway and beckoned me to the car. Frightened- I ran into the house. The couple quickly peeled out of the driveway, without approaching the house. At the time I was alarmed, but being so young it must have past, and remained a distant memory until I had my own child. As an adult it occurred to me what an odd experience this was. If the people had been friends of the family they surely would have come to the house. And if the couple were merely lost and needed directions, why didn’t they come and ask the adults? Why would they speed away so quickly? Perhaps these people meant no harm, but time and perspective have made me feel more and more uneasy about it as time goes on. I told my mother about it a few years ago, and being familiar with the area and circumstances, she thinks it very suspicious also. A long story- to further the question- how often do things like this happen where children never tell?

  4. Leise November 24, 2016 / 1:35 am

    The witness statement in the Lucy Meadows case makes no sense. This alleged relative was supposedly present at the home of Lucy’s parents the evening before she vanished and assuredly of a mature age,since he or she was an adult in 2004. Yet this witness allegedly did not realize it is not normal to see a child unconscious on the floor appearing lifeless and adults shouldn’t be hysterically reciting from the Bible like some Pentecostal Holly Rollers in the middle of someone’s house late at night, so waited for several years to share this information? It is impossible to be confused about these emotionally charged scenes even if one is a child at the time. I am not saying this witness is lying, but I do believe this person had amnesia either and knows a lot more about what went on in that house and Lucy’s fate than initially disclosed in 2004. Lucy did not just fall dead all of a sudden and for adults to have been trying to revive her with a Bible as if they were expecting some sort of miracle, whatever caused her death was neither accidental nor natural. Lucy had a brother(Daniel I believe he’s called), who was several years older than her and I wonder if police ever bothered to question him about his sister’s disappearance?

    • Meaghan November 24, 2016 / 1:52 am

      The witness wasn’t an adult at the time, he was twelve. He waited till adulthood to speak up. If he was Lucy’s brother — and I’ve been told the age is right — perhaps he didn’t speak out of loyalty to his family, fear of retaliation or fear he would not be believed.

    • Fernanda Diaz March 5, 2017 / 3:50 am

      The adults were franticly reciting the Bible as if she was Lazarus instead of taking Lucy to a hospital like rational people, because they weren’t trying to go to jail for child abuse and/or manslaughter. You seriously think the adults did not also tell the child witness not to say a word to anyone especially the police about what happened to Lucy? An acquaintance of mine suffered a similar traumatic event as a child in which one adult wanted to get the unresponsive kid in a car and to the emergency room immediately fearing arrest if the kid died while the other adult argued that they would also be going to jail if they let someone see the kid’s battered body. They both agreed that the fear of God and Hell to pay needed to be put into my friend first of all since he what he saw could easily be their downfall though. Likewise the child who witnessed Lucy’s death was powerless to intervene and almost certainly threatened into silence. Consider Erica Parsons’ adopted brother, who knew she was abused and died as a result for years, but did not dare open his mouth about what he knew until he was out of that house for good without ever looking back. A child, though most often the strongest witnesses to the horrors behind closed doors, are ultimately powerless and must yield to the adults regardless of the blood on the adults’ hands.

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