Authorities seek clues in attempted abduction

BEVERLY – Beverly police were continuing to look Friday for a man who tried to abduct an 11-year-old girl Thursday behind Fort Frye High School.

The child and another 11-year-old girl were playing hide and seek before cheerleading practice about 5:15 p.m., said Detective Ted Offenberger of the Beverly Police Department.

“One girl ran off to hide and she ran into the guy down by the river,” said Offenberger.

The man spotted the girl and commanded her to come with him, said Beverly Police Chief Mark Sams.

“According to the victim, she took off running. He ran after her and grabbed her by the hoodie,” said Sams.

The man, a white male in his 20s or 30s, began dragging the girl in the direction of the river, police said. He was dressed in camouflage and carrying a gun.

“At some point, he let go and she took off running,” said Sams. “We don’t have any idea which way he went because she didn’t look back.”

The second girl had taken off running toward Fort Frye High School to get help. By the time she got to the school, the victim had escaped and was running toward the school as well.

The victim described him as between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall with a skinny build, said Offenberger. He had light facial hair with a partial goatee, said Sams.

He was wearing an orange and camouflage hat, camo pants, a camo jacket and an orange shirt, said Sams. The victim said the man was carrying a long rifle with a camouflage stock, he said.

The Beverly Police Department, with the help of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, spent Thursday evening knocking on doors and scanning the area, but were unable to locate the man.

They were still looking for clues as to the assailant’s identity or whereabouts Friday, said Sams.

Security footage from Fort Frye High School and Beverly-Center Elementary will be reviewed, said Sams. However, he noted that there is no surveillance equipment that would cover the area where the event took place.

Fort Frye Board of Education member Charlie Schilling, who has two children who attend Beverly-Center, said he is confident in the security measures the school has in place.

“In the schools we are taking precautions with key card entry systems. We have cameras in the building,” he said.

Because the athletic area behind the high school is open to the public, there is little the school can do to restrict public access, said Schilling.

It is school policy that children who are on school grounds outside of school hours are supervised by an adult, he said.

“I think everyone needs to understand that on school grounds after school hours there may not be adults,” said Fort Frye Superintendent Tom Gibbs. “We don’t have staff there 24/7 monitoring.”

Beverly-Center staff took extra security precautions Friday, said Principal Megan Miller.

“The Beverly Police Department did have a presence throughout the day,” she said.

Extra teachers monitored recess, Miller added.

“We asked that they made sure to monitor recess from the perimeter,” said Gibbs. “Teachers monitoring recess have a tendency to be close to the building and the kids are out there playing…we wanted them to re-position and be along the perimeter.”

In addition, the school discontinued crossing guard posts which are normally fulfilled by trained sixth-graders until they have more information about Thursday’s event, said Miller.

Parents should be alert, but not worried, said Offenberger.

“I don’t believe this guy is a predator looking for kids. I think the kid ran into the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

The police department received leads on Friday that it is following up on, he added.

Anyone with information relating to the case should call the sheriff’s office at 740-376-7070.