BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) - The mom of a 3-year-old girl who was the victim of a reported attempted abduction at a park said police were beginning to doubt the story until a second incident seven miles away at an elementary school.
The first incident was reported on Sept. 22 at Piper Park in Battle Creek. The second was reported five days later, on Friday, at Harper Creek's Wattles Park Elementary School.
"I kind of want to know what's going on, if they're still telling me it's possibly false and now it's happened again," said the Battle Creek mom.
Her 3-year-old daughter Gabby was at Piper Park with four siblings when a stranger allegedly picked her up after the 19-year-old babysitter had turned her back.
"She turned back around and the guy -- I don't know who he is -- had her. She said, 'What are you doing?'" the mom recounted.
The babysitter told police she threatened the man with a baseball bat, forcing him to drop Gabby and run. He took off in what was described as a white van.
Battle Creek Police Chief Jackie Hampton told 24 Hour News 8 that his department has taken the case seriously, putting together a composite drawing and sending out a media alert.
But, within a few days, the mom said, Battle Creek detectives were doubting the babysitter's story.
"Even though the detective had told me he didn't believe that it was true, my children told me, 'Yes, mom that happened,'" the mom said. "My son's 11 and my daughter's 9. They're old enough to know and I believe my kids."
"They (Battle Creek police) said that to me Wednesday and then Friday, it happens again," she continued.
A Battle Creek detective confirmed they had questioned the initial report, but said they interviewed other possible witnesses and now have no reason to doubt the first attempt happened.
The second attempt was reported Friday morning at Wattles Park Elementary. A man reportedly asked a 9-year-old girl to get into his small, black pickup, Emmett Township police said.
"She told him no. A conversation occurred a couple of times -- 'Hey, get in my truck.' She said no and went into the school," Emmett Township Detective Seth Graves said.
The description of the suspect was similar to the description in Battle Creek -- except for the vehicle, Graves said.
Emmett Township police met with Battle Creek police on Monday to trade notes, though police said they were still trying to determine if the two are related.
"We are trying to do this," Graves said. "We don't want to see anybody get hurt."
Police and local school officials were warning parents. Harper Creek schools sent an email to parents on Saturday, then sent a note home with students on Monday.
"The concern is if we have someone who's trying to attract children, young girls or boys -- I don't know if we're gender-specific at this point," said Graves, the Emmett Township detective. "So, we just want parents to be cognizant, pay attention to what's going on around their kids."
Educators were reminding parents to talk to their children about "stranger danger."
"It is concerning," said Harper Creek Superintendent John Severson. "It's been in such a short span with another incident that we should all be more vigilant about that. I think that's a reminder to all parents, even in other locations, to have those conversations. But we take it very seriously."
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