Boy, 15, charged in toddler kidnapping caught on video

The boy was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he snatched a 22-month-old toddler from a city park last Sunday

By Nicholas K. Geranios
Associated Press

DAVENPORT, Wash. — A 15-year-old boy was charged Friday in juvenile court in the brief abduction of a young child in a small eastern Washington farm community — an incident that drew wide attention after it was caught on surveillance video.

The boy was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he snatched a 22-month-old toddler from a city park last Sunday in Sprague.

He was arraigned in Lincoln County juvenile court on a charge of second-degree kidnapping and entered a plea of not guilty. His next court appearance is April 10, and the judge ruled that he must remain in custody. The maximum penalty for the kidnapping charge is confinement until age 21.

The Associated Press is not identifying the boy because he is a juvenile.

"We'll evaluate the evidence and mount a defense and see where this goes," said Chris Phelps of Spokane, the boy's attorney, after the brief hearing.

One major issue for prosecutors will be proving the person in the video is his client, Phelps said.

The boy, a student at Sprague High School, was dressed in street clothes and spoke only to answer the judge's yes and no questions.

Lincoln County Prosecutor Jeff Barkdull said authorities don't know why the suspect grabbed the toddler out of a stroller last Sunday at a city park in Sprague. "The town of Sprague can rest a little easier with this individual in custody," Barkdull said after the hearing.

Relatives of the defendant were at the hearing, but they declined to talk with reporters.

The parents of the toddler have praised their two older children, who chased the kidnapper and screamed for help.

The incident began after Michael Wright left his three children with a baby sitter on Sunday while he went to work. The children — Brenden, 10, Delicia, 8, and the toddler — were playing unsupervised in a city park near the sitter's house.

The dramatic surveillance video footage showed a male running down a sidewalk with the toddler in his arms. The child's two siblings screamed and chased him. The scene ended after two teenage boys joined the chase, and the male put down the toddler in a vacant lot and fled. The toddler was not hurt.

The toddler's sister picked the suspect out of a photographic lineup, according to court papers. When the girl left the interview room, she told her father, "I found the guy," the documents said.

The defendant was arrested on Wednesday, after law enforcement officers collected evidence including clothing, fingerprints, hair and other evidence, court documents said.

The defendant declined during the investigation to take a polygraph test, and he denied that he was the person on the video, court documents said.

During the hearing, there was discussion about possibly setting bail of $100,000.

But Judge John F. Strohmaier expressed concern both for the safety of other children in Sprague and for the safety of the defendant. In the end he decided the youth would remain in custody in a regional juvenile hall for now.

"I do find him a threat to human safety," the judge said.

Phelps was asked after the hearing whether his client could face retribution in the community if released on bail. "I don't think we'd have vigilante justice out there," he said.

Sprague is a farm town of about 500 people about 40 miles west of Spokane.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

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