In Cokato, relief and pride

Kevin Duchschere,  Star Tribune
March 4, 2005 COKATO0304

COKATO, MINN. — Finally, an abduction incident notable more for what
didn’t happen than what did.

The guy in the van failed three times to kidnap different girls. The
girls didn’t lose their cool, registering enough detail about the man and
his vehicle before running away from him to file a solid description with
authorities. City Hall wasn’t flooded with frantic phone calls. No vigils
were held.

Still, residents in this city of 2,700 about 50 miles west of Minneapolis
were relieved that the girls apparently targeted Wednesday morning by a
would-be abductor were OK. They were proud, too.

“Reactions are ranging from the very typical ‘I can’t believe this
happened here’ to how impressed they were with how the kids handled
things,” said Mike Worcester, director of the Cokato Museum.

Talking about the attempts
Richard Sennott
Star Tribune

The museum is within eyeshot of Cokato Elementary, the K-4 school the
girls were headed to Wednesday.

A man said to be in his 20s tried to coax each of them separately into
his van. Their ages: 8, 9 and 10. The girls told investigators that the
man had short brown hair and possibly a mustache and that he wore blue
jeans and an orange shirt or sweatshirt. He was reportedly driving a
green or blue-green van with a gray interior. The attempts occurred
within three blocks of the school.

Downtown Cokato
Richard Sennott
Star Tribune

Stacy Doyle, spokeswoman for the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, said
Thursday that no arrests had been made. Deputies patrolled streets near
the school.

Classes were held as usual, with small exceptions to the daily routine,
Principal Lorene Force said.

Authorities declined to answer questions about the episodes, first
reported at 7:41 a.m. Wednesday. But according to local chatter, one girl
ran to a nearby home to report what happened, one told school authorities
and the last one piped up after hearing about the other two incidents.

Playground vigilance
Richard Sennott
Star Tribune

Force credited parents with talking to their children about being safe.
But parents gave the school high marks for quickly notifying police and
neighboring schools, keeping a normal schedule and sending a letter home
with the kids.

The news was broken gently to students. Force told them “there was a van
driving around today and a man was trying to talk to kids.” She assured
them they were safe at school.

“The school did a good job,” said Tanna Sletten of nearby Silver Lake,
whose children go to Cokato Elementary.

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