By Louis T. Corsaletti
Woodinville, WA — Perry Ford knew something obviously was wrong when he saw a man dragging a kicking and screaming teenager across a Safeway parking lot.
But he didn't know that his subsequent actions would result in the arrest of a 29-year-old Seattle man in the attempted abduction — nor that the man had been convicted of kidnapping and sexual molestation of a teenager in 1988 and released from prison in 1992.
According to police, the same suspect was responsible for two more attempts to abduct teenage girls in Snohomish County, WA the next day. The abduction attempts come at a time when awareness is heightened because of the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in California.
Ford, 25, said he saw the man dragging the 14-year-old across the supermarket parking lot. At first, Ford thought it might be a husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend dispute. As he got closer, he changed his mind. He got out of his pickup and asked what was going on.
"The guy said he and his girlfriend were having a fight," Ford said, "but I could tell by the age difference there was no way he was her boyfriend."
The other man quickly released the terrified teenager and jumped into his car and the girl ran to the front of the grocery store.
"I walked over to his car window," Ford said, "and told him no way–thinking he couldn't drive his car away (because Ford's pickup was blocking it). I was wrong."
The man drove up over a sidewalk and sped off–but not before Ford got a good look at his face–despite the man's efforts to cover it with his arm–and memorized the license number.
After hearing that the suspect had been arrested in Snohomish.
The man was arrested by Snohomish County sheriff's deputies after two [Washington] teenagers, in separate incidents, reported a man tried to force them into his car.
Deputies arrested the man at gunpoint when he abandoned his car and tried to escape on foot, minutes after the second incident.
A 16-year-old girl told deputies that a man pulled up and asked her for directions as she stood at the foot of her driveway. She said the man then grabbed her and tried to force her into his car, but she pulled away and called for assistance.
A half-hour later, deputies got a call from a 13-year-old girl who said she was on her way to a babysitting job when a stranger in an older model, brown car tried to abduct her. She escaped and ran back to her house to call police.
Ford's description of the suspect matched those given by the Snohomish County girls, as well as the description of the car, a 1981 reddish-brown Subaru.
King County police spokesman Rick Chubb said the suspect served prison time at the state Corrections Center in Shelton, WA and the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, WA before being released Jan. 17, 1992.
As a convicted sex offender, he was registered as living at an address on Terry Street in Seattle, according to Snohomish County sheriff's spokeswoman, Jan Jorgensen. However, he had apparently been living in the Lost Lake Road area in South Snohomish County, close to where yesterday's two attempted kidnappings happened. He had not informed the Snohomish County sheriff's office of his new address.
Ford said he had some qualms about interceding in the incident. But he said the violence of the struggle spurred him on. He admits to a gut-wrenching feeling when he hears or reads about sexual-molestation cases, but he adds that he's no hero.
"I was a little scared," Ford said. "I've heard stories about people being shot or stabbed in such circumstances."
Ford, who is married and has no children, added: "It gets me deepdown in the gut. I've always said that if I found someone doing that I would be so upset I would probably kill him."
Abridged by permission of The Seattle Times