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Child Safety Situation #11

Girls, 11 & 7 years old; abducted by someone they knew while walking home.

One day in 1996, Mrs. Smith* gazed at her two oldest daughters, 11-year-old Julia* and her 7-year-old sister Angela*, as they left to walk to school one day. She must have thought, "I'm so proud of Julia, getting in the gifted program and on safety patrol. They are both so pretty. That's what that guy who took me to the store last week said. What was his name...Tony B.*, that's it."

When Julia and Angela did not come home from school at their usual time, Mrs. Smith took their 3-year-old sister Patty and walked to the school to see if they had been kept late for some reason. The people at school said the sisters had left together to walk home as usual. "This is not like my children," Mrs. Smith said. "They know I expect them to come straight home. They would not scare me this way. Still, they are just kids; maybe they stopped at the park to swing and forgot the time."

After finding no one at the park who had seen the girls, Mrs. Smith was frantic. She asked everyone in her trailer park if the girls were visiting with them. Finally, after searching for two worrisome hours, she called the police for help.

This story does not have a happy ending.

This is what we believe happened. On that day in 1996, Tony B. waited for the girls to leave the school grounds. He pulled up beside them and offered them a ride home, or he may have told them their mother sent him to pick them up. Julia may have thought: "Mama told me never to get in a car with a stranger. But Tony B. is not a stranger. He is nice to us and helps Mama."

As Tony B. later told police, he suggested going by his house first, saying "At my house I have lots of candy left over from Halloween I would like to give you." As soon as he got the girls in his house, Tony probably locked the door. Then, he turned into the wolf he had hidden behind his friendly face. He grabbed Julia and raped her, while Angela cried. Eventually he strangled both of the girls.

When Mrs. Smith told law enforcement a Tony B. had been hanging around their trailer park and had shown some interest in her missing daughters, he was questioned and confessed that he killed Julia and Angela. He showed where he had hidden their bodies in his attic.

What can you learn from this terrible tragedy to make you more predator smart?

May I Ride:
Never get into a car with anyone, even someone you know, unless the person who takes care of you said you could ride with that person that day. Step back and away from any car stopping beside you. Tell the driver you are not allowed to go with anyone, not even a neighbor or relative, unless your mom or dad or whoever takes care of you told you earlier that very day it is OK to ride with him or her.

May I Visit:
Never go into anyone's house unless the person who takes care of you said you could go into that person's house that day. Once you're in a closed place it's much harder to get out. Even though the sisters thought Tony B. was a friend, they did not have their mom's permission to go into his house.

Check First:
Never go with anyone just because he says your mom told him to pick you up or to take you to where your mom is. Ask your mother or daddy to give you a secret word if they want you to go with someone. Better, go back to your school to call and verify that your mother gives you permission to ride with this person this day. If you cannot get hold of your mother or someone who takes care of you, ask someone your mother said you could trust at school to take you to where your mother supposedly is waiting for you. The best thing to do is simply say "no thank you" and run straight home to tell your mom or dad what happened.

Think Twice:
Be especially careful around people you have just met. Of course, you want to meet and make new friends, but it's best to be cautious and really get to know a person before you take things from them or go places with them. There is something called fool's gold but is worth nothing. So, too, there is fake love which tries to pass for real love. Make sure your jolly friend does not turn into a fiend, like Dr. Jekyll turned into Dr. Hyde.

The only surefire way to keep children safe from pedophiles is to keep these sexual predators locked away from their potential victims. Therefore, the longer the mandatory prison term for sexual assault on a child is, the safer our children are. After a sexual predator has been punished for his crime and served his sentence, the state can continue to keep him in a secured mental facility for treatment, provided the state has enacted a law similar to the Florida Jimmy Ryce Act of 1998. This authorizes the civil commitment of a convicted sexual predator, about to be released, if the state shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that he has a personality disorder which makes him unable or unwilling to control the urge to have sex with children.

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*Names changed to protect privacy; information presented for educational purposes only. Reprinted with permission from The Jimmy Ryce Center.

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