Entries in Hugging (2)


'Serial Hugger' Preys on Women in St. Louis Suburbs

Hemera/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Missouri prosecutors are trying to decide whether to charge an alleged serial hugger who pretends to know women and cons them into giving him a hug.

So far, at least 36 women have come forward to complain about unwanted hugs, and one woman said the man also kissed her on the lips during their embrace.

Police have not released the name of the man, but the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis weekly, dubbed him "Jack the Gripper" or "John Wayne Embracey."  One St. Louis suburb arrested him on probable cause, but released him an hour later.

Most of the women who have come forward called police in Des Peres, Mo.  According to their reports, the alleged hugger typically approaches women while they are shopping by themselves, pretends to know them as a former neighbor, and then asks for a hug under the pretense that it is his birthday, Des Peres Detective Marshall Broughton said.

"He'd say, 'Hi, remember me?  I lived down the street in the corner house.  How ya been?'" Broughton said.  "Obviously [the women] didn't remember him, but he did it so quickly and convincingly that they felt embarrassed that they didn't know him."

Des Peres police identified the man, who is 44, but did not arrest him because of uncertainty about whether his actions were criminal, Broughton said.  The alleged hugger showed up at the Des Peres police department with his attorney on June 20 after police requested that he come in for questioning. He made no statements at the meeting, Broughton said.

Before he could leave, however, he was handcuffed by police officers from nearby Warson Woods, who had conducted a photo lineup in which a witness readily identified him, Warson Woods Police Chief Robert Stanczak said.  Warson Woods police questioned him for about an hour before letting him go, Stanczak said.

Des Peres and Warson Woods police have reported the hugging incidents to St. Louis County prosecutors, who will determine whether to pursue third-degree assault charges, among others.

While county prosecutors may determine that the hugger's actions did not violate state law, Stanczak said they clearly constituted assault under Warson Woods municipal ordinances.

If prosecutors decide to pursue charges against the man, his identity will become public, and a warrant will be issued for his arrest.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Student Suspended for Hugging -- A 14-year-old middle school student was suspended as a result of a Florida school’s strict no-hugging policy.

Nick Martinez said he hugged his best friend, a female student, quickly between classes, according to WKMG-TV, Orlando, and never thought the gesture would result in suspension. The principal at Southwest Middle School in Palm Bay saw the hug and brought the two students to the dean, who issued a one-day in-school suspension.

“Honestly, I didn’t know, because I didn’t think hugging was a bad thing. I didn’t know you could get suspended for it,” Martinez told WKMG-TV. “A lot of friends are hugging. I just happened to be the one caught doing it.”

According to the school’s student handbook, students can be penalized for hugging or hand-holding with either a dean’s detention or suspension. Kissing calls for a one-day out-of-school suspension.

Martinez’s mother, Nancy Crescente, was outraged to learn her son had been suspended for the “mutual hug,” and is calling on the school board to clarify the policy.

As it stands, the school’s handbook doesn’t distinguish between an inappropriate hug, which could constitute harassment, and a mutual, friendly hug. It also makes no distinction in the policy between 11-year-old students and 16-year-olds, who all attend Southwest.

“We cannot make an opinion or judgment call on whether a hug is appropriate or not. It’s very difficult to police that on campus,” Christine Davis, the  public information officer for Brevard County Public Schools, told ABC News.

Davis said the school puts policies and procedures in place to help keep the students focused on learning.

The official policy across Brevard Country schools is that public affection is “in poor taste,” but it does not necessarily result in suspension. This middle school’s Student Advisory Council, a board made up of teachers, parents and administrators, reviewed the district’s guidelines and outlined the specific consequences for public displays of affection.

The school has no plans to change the policy.

Crescente told WKMG-TV that she would ask the board to change the policy and fight to have her son’s suspension scrubbed from his record.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio