Entries in Kidnapping (4)


Verna McClain Like Most Infant Abductors, Fits Familiar Psych Profile

Montgomery County D.A.(HOUSTON) -- As details emerge on the kidnapping of an infant in Texas on Tuesday, psychologists said the woman who allegedly committed the crime seemed to fit a familiar profile of an infant abductor: a woman who desperately wanted a baby.

Verna Dean McClain, a 30-year-old mother of three, is charged with capital murder for allegedly shooting and killing a 28-year-old mother, Kayla Marie Golden, and kidnapping her 3-day-old son in the parking lot of a pediatrician's office outside of Houston on Tuesday. Police said she admitted committing the crime because she wanted a baby to mislead her fiance into thinking that she had recently given birth to his child.

Witnesses reported that McClain drove up next to Golden's pickup truck in the parking lot and, after a brief altercation, shot her several times before snatching the baby from his car seat and driving away, hitting Golden with the car in the process.

The baby, Keegan Schuchardt, was found alive and well six hours after the kidnapping in McClain's home.

Infant abductions are rare and differ from kidnappings of older children, who are more likely to be the target of sexual crimes and then murdered. Between 1983 and 2012, 283 infants were taken by someone other than a family member from hospitals, homes or "other places," according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Most were recovered unharmed.

But Ken Lanning, a retired FBI agent who has studied nearly all cases of infant abduction for the agency's Behavioral Science Unit, said the abductors usually fit a common profile.

"The perpetrator is almost always a woman who, for one reason or another, has some desperate need to have a baby," he said.

In some cases, infants are taken for ransom or because of a conflict with the parents or family of the baby. It was not immediately clear whether or not McClain had any connection with Golden or the baby's father, Keith Schuchardt.

But in most cases, experts say a woman who takes a baby experiences a void in her life -- a void she believes only a baby can fill.

But neither does a woman take a baby simply for the joy of loving and caring for it.

"In almost every case, it is a woman who is desperate to have a child in order to keep a man," said Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University in Boston.

Women who commit these crimes may feign pregnancies and, at a certain point, must come up with a child to present as the man's.

Police said McClain told them she recently had a miscarriage.

"The primary reason is an effort to save a relationship with a man by presenting him with his baby," Lanning said.

As much as McClain seemed to fit the profile of a typical infant abductor, her alleged crime appeared to have some unique aspects.

McClain was already a mother of three children, ages 16, 10 and 6 -- but Lanning said older children may not be enough to satisfy the mental and emotional urges of women who commit these crimes.

"The key is [that] she doesn't want a child, she wants a baby," he said.

"It also is possible that she had her other children with a different man," and faced a partner's insistence that she give birth to his child, Levin said.

Whatever the motivation for taking another woman's baby, these crimes are usually the result of months of planning and preparation. Women may wear padding under their clothing to appear pregnant, make fake sonograms or follow prospective mothers to select a victim.

Levin would be surprised if McClain randomly selected Golden as her target.

"There's a very good chance, in my opinion, that this victim was stalked," he said. "She may have been followed by this perpetrator since the day of birth."

McClain is a registered nurse, but it is not known if she worked in the facility where the baby was born.

Infant abductions used to happen primarily in hospitals. Women would monitor the hospitals, find babies they wanted and select the ideal time and place to abduct them. But as hospitals became aware of the problem and increased their security measures, the number of hospital abductions has gone down.

According to NCMEC, of the 17 infants abducted in 1991, 11 of them were taken from health care facilities. In 2009, 11 infants were abducted, but just three of them were taken from a health care facility.

However, lower numbers of hospital abductions have corresponded with increases in the numbers of babies taken from their homes or public places.

Lanning said abducting a baby outside of a hospital usually means a direct confrontation with the parents, which makes violence toward mothers much more likely.

"At some point, when she said, 'That's the baby I'm going after,' nothing's going to stop her," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jaycee Dugard Sparks Powerful Reaction from Abuse Survivors

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Watching Jaycee Dugard describe overcoming the scars from her 18 year abduction gave Janice Norwood hope that her daughter, missing for 22 years, is still alive and that she will see her again.

"Seeing Jaycee Dugard and her mother, I just...that would be so awesome and I just got to believe it's going to happen someday," Norwood said.

Norwood, 62, was one of nearly 15 million people who tuned in to Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Dugard, the California woman abducted at 11 and held captive in a backyard compound for nearly two decades. Dugard and the two daughters she gave birth to in that backyard prison were rescued in 2009.

The 31-year-old Dugard gave a rare glimpse into life of an abducted person and the way a predator operates. For Norwood, whose daughter Kimberly disappeared in 1989 at age 12, watching Dugard gave her a window into how her daughter might be living if she's alive.

"I have wondered so many times like what she's been put through...I have thought of Kim being drugged up, of being tied up, locked up...I try not to think about that," Norwood said.

Norwood's daughter, Kim, disappeared walking home from a friend's house in their Hallsville, Texas, neighborhood. Norwood still looks down her driveway when she's watering the grass or plants hoping her daughter will appear. She said she gathered strength from watching Dugard's mother, Terry Probyn. Probyn described working tirelessly to find Dugard and said she always had a gut feeling her daughter was still alive.

Norwood was one of hundreds who flocked to Facebook to thank Dugard for her bravery. As soon as the interview aired, viewers tweeted and posted comments about the impact of Dugard's story on them.

One person commented, "the next time someone tells me they can't, I will say three words, 'Jaycee Lee Dugard.'"

A woman posted on Sawyer's Facebook page that Dugard is a "universal lift for the human spirit."

Dugard recounted the abuse and manipulation she suffered at the hands of her abductors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido. She also emphasized how she's worked hard to overcome the horror she suffered.

Dugard gave the interview and released her memoir, A Stolen Life, because she doesn't want to keep any more secrets.

"Why not look at it? You know, stare it down until it can't scare you anymore," Dugard told Sawyer.

That confidence and bravery resonated with several abuse survivors.

A teenager commented, "I suffered molestation for eight years from my biological father before I told my mom. It's been four years since I've told and I still have not talked about it to my therapist. Hopefully, this will give me courage to overcome my fear of telling her. Thank you."

Another sexual abuse survivor wrote, "It's so easy to 'give in' to the pain and horror of it and let what happened become you. She [Jaycee Dugard] has shown me in so many ways, that now at 51, I have no excuse for not moving on and and helping whoever I can. Thank you, Jaycee, for being who you are."

Beth Hughes, 53, said that she was glued to the television when Dugard recounted her abuse. Memories of the molestation she suffered as a child came flooding back.

"Wow, here's a girl 18 years held captive and she's sharing her story and it just made me think...if more people, not just Jaycee talk about their journey and their recovery from the pain of it, I think a lot more people will be healthy mentally."

Dugard described shutting off a "switch" to survive in the oppressive environment of her captors. "You just do what you have to do to survive," she told Sawyer. Dugard said that she doesn't feel a rage building inside of her towards the Garrido couple. Instead, she refuses to let them have any more of her. Dugard's desire to build a future resonates with Hughes.

"You can't get the time back, you can only go forward...that clicked when I saw Jaycee," Hughes said. "I feel like I needed to help even one person whose struggling with things that happened to them in childhood and it's affecting them in adulthood," Hughes said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


When Is it Safe to Let Your Child Walk Home Alone?

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Since 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky was killed and dismembered after getting lost on his way home from camp, parents everywhere cannot help but reexamine their own parenting decisions.

Kletzky had begged his parents to be able to walk home alone.  They had finally let him do so on Tuesday.  But in the short distance from his camp to the place where he was to meet his parents in Brooklyn, New York, Leiby got lost and met a stranger who killed him, police said.

The case has reminded parents that the worst can happen.

"It is one of the most horrific crimes -- and I've been doing this for over 20 years -- that I've ever heard of," said Nancy McBride, national safety director at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

About 58,000 children are abducted in the United States annually by people who have no blood relationship to them, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. By far, most of those abductors are not strangers -- they are a mother's boyfriend, a babysitter, a parent in a custody battle.  The great majority are sexually motivated, McBride said, and most of the children are released and return home.

However, about 115 of those cases each year are classic "stranger abductions," said McBride.  In as many as 50 of those cases, the child is murdered.

So how can parent balance concerns over keeping their children safe while allowing them to grow up? Here are some tips from experts:

When Should Your Child Be Permitted to Go Out Alone?

While there is no magic number, "Typically, when children are around 12 or 13 years old, they have the wherewithal to be aware of the risks and also have the wherewithal to reach out if they do need help,'' said Rosemary Webb, co-president of Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention, a Vermont-based child and parent safety organization.

Webb and others emphasized that every child is different, and parents need to make decisions based on their particular child and situation -- urban versus suburban, the maturity level of the child, the means necessary to get where the child needs to go.

Rescript the Stranger Danger Talk

Instead of telling children not to talk to strangers, "Teach kids to make judgment calls not based on what a person looks like but, rather, their behavior and what they want you to do,'' said Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After, Inc., a Los Angeles-area consultant who teaches safety to parents and children.

Children should be taught that if they are lost, they should find a store and ask a clerk behind the cash register or someone in charge for help, or ask a mother with children.

Some safety experts point out that children should be taught that a person in a uniform is not necessarily a safe person and certainly not the only person they can reach out to for help.  Police officers may not be around when a child is lost or needs help.

What Your Child Should Do When Approached by a Possible Predator

Children need to learn that, "Safe grownups don't ask kids for help when they're by themselves or just with another kid,'' said Fitzgerald.  "A safe grownup shouldn't be asking a child for assistance and it's OK to say no to an adult who is asking for help, and to immediately walk in the opposite direction."

"If they feel scared, if they feel threatened, or if they are grabbed, make a loud commotion, even if the perp says, 'Don't yell,'" said Fitzgerald. "Make a commotion."

Use the Buddy System

Predators are less likely to target a child in a group.

Create a Family Plan of Action

Parents should create a family plan of action and talk through the scenarios with the child regularly.  Discuss the possibilities: What do you do if you get lost?  What do you do if you need help at the mall?  What if there was an emergency in our family, who would come to get you?

Guard Your Child's Privacy

Do not put your child's name on clothing or backpacks.  Predators can use the knowledge to catch the child off guard.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

If you think your child is old enough to handle the responsibility, cellphones are a great tool for children to reach out for help and to give parents some piece of mind.  But experts warn that batteries run out, children use phones inappropriately and predators would likely know that a phone could lead authorities to them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jaycee Dugard's New Foundation Helps Families Impacted by Abduction

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Jaycee Dugard wears around her neck the small symbol of a pinecone. The prickly, sticky object was the last piece of freedom she grasped when Phillip and Nancy Garrido kidnapped her.

"Back then [the pinecone] was the last thing I touched...Now, it's a symbol of hope and new beginnings. And that...there is life after something tragic," Dugard told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview.

Part of her new beginning involves the creation of the JAYC Foundation which stands for Just Ask Yourself to Care. Dugard wants to help other families like hers, families impacted by abduction.

The foundation will use animal-assisted therapy, along with other support services to treat families recovering from abduction and the aftermath of traumatic experiences. Dugard will also use the foundation to help facilitate awareness in schools about the important need to care for one another.

Since she and her daughters were freed from the Garridos in 2009, Dugard has spent the last two years healing, learning to speak up for herself and enjoying firsts: like getting her driver's license, taking her daughters to school, simply having family dinners around a table. With the help of family unification therapist Rebecca Bailey and the Transitioning Families team, Dugard and her daughters have worked hard to free themselves from years of manipulation. The therapy includes a unique horse therapy. Just as important as her healing process, is the healing of her family too -- her mother who held hope for 18 years that she'd see Dugard again, her sister who was just a baby when she was abducted.

Portions of the proceeds from Dugard's memoir, A Stolen Life, will go to the JAYC Foundation. The foundation is also selling necklaces with the same pinecone charm that means so much to Dugard. A share of the proceeds from the necklace sales will also go to the foundation. You can purchase a necklace or make a donation to the foundation by going to its website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio