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Police rank mall-abduction rumors with Bigfoot tales

TNS Regional News • Mar 7, 2014 at 7:17 PM

The email warns of attempts to abduct women and girls in broad daylight at crowded shopping centers. It warns that a new gang initiation requires members to kidnap, rape and beat women, then dump them in parking lots.

For years, authorities have tried to keep such messages from spreading, debunking their claims as urban myths.

Last week, an e-mail Columbus Police officials say is a hoax circulated throughout central Ohio, warning that kidnappers nearly took someone’s “co-worker’s cousin” on a Saturday afternoon from a crowded Polaris Fashion Place.

“This is right up there with Bigfoot,” Columbus Police Sgt. David Pelphrey said.

The unsigned e-mail, said police warned of ongoing abductions and said that they “couldn’t emphasize enough how lucky this family was.”

Total bunk, Pelphrey said.

According to the email, “The targeted preference is younger / thinner / lighter hair / lighter eyes / lighter skin females … although, this group has also abducted groups of young women traveling together and women with daughters.”

Pelphrey recalls a similar email chain in 2008 that claimed the attempted kidnappings of women with long hair at Walmart stores. It wasn't true, either.

Pelphrey, of the Police Division’s sexual-assault squad, said he is not aware of any investigations into attempted kidnappings at Polaris, Easton Town Center and Tuttle Crossing. The malls are safe, he said. They have their own security and have cameras throughout the property.

Polaris officials also say they have no record or reports of any attempted abductions.

The recent rumor has gained traction in part because a Hilliard school official forwarded the e-mail to his staff from his work account, Pelphrey said. Many of the e-mails forwarded to Columbus Police feature the one sent by Brent Wise, Hilliard’s director of innovation and extended learning.

Wise said he was not the source of the e-mail; he received it and forwarded it on.

“Anytime you see something and it comes from someone with a title, it lends credibility to the information,” Pelphrey said.

But if anyone had asked the police first, they would have debunked it, he said.


By Charlie Boss - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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