Police: No evidence backs up girl’s claims
Saying they could find no evidence to back up claims by an 11-year-old girl that a man tried to abduct her after she got off the school bus late last month, Mandeville police have called off the search for the would-be kidnapper, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Detectives had followed up on almost 50 tips that came in after police released a sketch and described the man as a heavy-set Hispanic man with short hair, a mustache and glasses. The girl described the man as driving a rust-colored sedan.
There were no witnesses to the incident, and police scoured the neighborhood for video and checked phone records and sex-offender registries, said Lt. Gerald Sticker of the Mandeville Police Department.
The girl gave “inconsistent and contradictory statements” during the investigation, Sticker said. He refused, however, to accuse her of making up the story.
The girl’s father, David Crawford, disputed the statement that his daughter had told different stories to police. “She never made an inconsistent statement,” he said. “Her statements were exactly the same each time.”
Crawford said either he or the girl’s mother was with her in each of her interviews with police, the last of which occurred just two days ago.
In giving at least three statements to police, she spoke with at least four different detectives, he said.
During the interviews, he said, the police often got details recounted during previous interviews wrong.
“They couldn’t read their own notes,” he said. “She was never inconsistent.”
Crawford said he remained “absolutely convinced” that the attempted abduction happened as his daughter said.
The sixth-grader at Tchefuncte Middle School claimed that after she got off her school bus about 3:45 p.m. on Aug. 28, a man pulled up next to her as she walked home along Barbara Place near Cambronne Street in Mandeville.
She said the man asked if she needed a ride home. When she fled toward her house, she said, the man left his car and chased her about halfway across her yard. The girl was able to get inside the house before he caught up with her.
But by the time she told her father what happened, the man had disappeared, police said at the time.
Neighbors reported seeing a man matching the description the girl gave driving a sedan in the area before that day, police said. But no one saw him that day.
“We weren’t able to find one inkling of evidence to lead us to believe this happened,” Sticker said. “We looked high and low and have turned up nothing at all.”
The reported attempted abduction led the St. Tammany Parish school system to call parents whose children rode the same bus and to send letters home with students at Tchefuncte Middle School and nearby Pontchartrain Elementary School.
Crawford said Mandeville detectives contacted him Tuesday to let him know they couldn’t find anything.
His daughter is recovering but still gets nervous when cars go by, he said. She still rides the bus, but it now drops her off in front of his house, where he waits for her, he said.