Port Townsend police seek man in possible child-abduction attempt

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Police are looking for a man who reportedly approached a sixth-grader on his way to school, offered him candy, told him to come to him and scared the boy.

Child abductions haven’t “happened around here, but it could,” said the boy’s mother.

“We are sleeping, and we need to wake up.”

Port Townsend Police Deputy Chief Mike Evans said that since the Wednesday incident, the department has been seeking a man with a white goatee and missing front teeth who drives a white rusty panel van without windows.

Police want to question him about what may have been a child-abduction attempt.

Evans said he and Police Chief Conner Daily drove through several neighborhoods Friday searching for a van with that description but with no results.

Ashton Hoye, 11, was riding his bike from his home through the woods to Blue Heron Middle School, 3939 San Juan Ave., on Wednesday morning, according to his mother and police.

When he emerged from the path onto the area around Haines and 35th streets, a man was blocking the path.

According to an account supplied by Ashton’s mother, Shannon Callahan, the man asked Ashton whether he wanted some candy. The boy replied, “No, thank you,” and the man asked, “Are you sure?”

The man then told Ashton to “come here,” and the boy rode away, Callahan said.

When he arrived at school at about 8:30 a.m., he reported the encounter to counselor Pam Rogge, who calmed him before calling police at about 9:40 a.m., according to Diane Lashinsky, school principal.

“He did exactly what he was supposed to do in this situation,” Lashinsky said.

Lashinsky was off campus attending a conference Wednesday, so Rogge turned to Scott Wilson, the district’s athletic director, who called police.

Letter sent home

On Thursday, Lashinsky wrote a letter that was taken home by each student alerting parents about the incident, coupled with safety instructions taken from the National Center for Safe Routes to School website.

Instructions include children walking together, wearing bright clothing and developing a password system between parents and children.

Ashton said the man was wearing a dirty white T-shirt, dirty jeans and a blue Oakland A’s baseball cap.

He also told police that the man “looked like he just finished doing drugs.”

Callahan said that when Officer John Bick was taking the report, he questioned the color of the hat since the team’s hat is actually green, but she looked online and found a blue hat that was listed as “vintage.”

Callahan said her son was badly upset.

“He was crying and all shaken up when he was talking to me, and the more he talked about it, the more he cried,” she said.

Callahan said Ashton got close enough to the man and the candy to see that it was a Starburst.

Evans said the department did not have access to a sketch artist who could meet with Ashton in order to create a visual description.

Callahan said police sent her a picture of a white van with no windows. When she showed it to Ashton, he said the van he saw had more rust around the bottom.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Evans said.

“We are distributing the description around the community and are asking people to be vigilant and report anything suspicious immediately.”

Evans said anyone observing such activity should phone 9-1-1.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 05. 2013 5:37PM
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