Kidnapping horror puts parents on alert
- Written by Patsy Oliver
Child abduction prompts tough dialogue In the wake of last week’s abduction of a 7-year-old girl from a Fall Creek neighborhood, many parents are having serious discussions with their children, neighbors and school officials. The child was abducted near her home last Monday after getting off the school bus . She was lured into a car by a stranger who promised to take her to her mother. The man had previously attempted to entice a 6-year-old into his car with money, but that little girl told an adult right away, and the adult contacted police. Both children attend Summerwood Elementary School. The child who was taken was dropped off in Baytown about two hours later, and employees at the rehabilitation center, where she was released, called police. The next evening, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced that they had arrested 25-year-old Kenneth Delaine Stewart at his mother’s home in Dayton. Upon questioning, Stewart confessed to investigators that he had kidnapped and sexually assaulted the child. School officials notified parents the day after the incident and a meeting was scheduled by the district for Summerwood Elementary parents. When the visual presentation of safety tips concluded at the April 9 meeting, hands went up throughout the Summerwood Elementary cafetorium. One parent asked about a parent notification system, complaining that the notice sent out was too late. Director of Student Services Mary Gustafson explained that the district sent e-mails to parents and posted the notification to their Web site as soon as the details were made clear. She added that since the incident did not happen during school hours or on school property, they had to gather the information from law enforcement. Several parents stated that they would like to see more presence from Humble ISD police – before, during and after school. HISD Police Chief Solomon Cook explained that the department is doing the best that it can with the resources they have to work with. He said that officers patrol every day throughout the district, but with such a large area to cover, they cannot “be on every corner.” When asked if the department needed more manpower, Cook said that as with just about all law enforcement agencies in the state, his, too, could use more officers. “Every year it gets better,” said Solomon about district security. “Hopefully next year we’ll have money for more cameras and money for more officers.” Another concerned father said that the protection of the community’s children could not be placed upon law enforcement and the school district. “We have to police our own kids,” he said. “... we have to get to know each other.” His statement drew a very favorable response as parents applauded the comment. District spokeswoman Karen Collier echoed that advice. “The phrase ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ ... is one we can all hold especially close to our hearts this week ... Nothing unites a community more than a threat to its children,” said Collier. “While this happened in a neighborhood and not on a campus, the school district wants to do its part to help keep children safe. That is why we teach children the Stranger Danger rules and why we have resources available on the Humble ISD Web site (www.humble.k12.tx.us/parentresources.htm) to help our parents reinforce this message,” added Collier. Addressing the issue of security cameras, Collier encouraged residents to vote for the upcoming bond, which allots funding for the cameras. “Our community members may be interested in knowing that the Bond 2008 plan includes multiple security cameras for all of our elementary campuses,” said Collier. Stewart remains in the Harris County Jail, held without bond, and is scheduled to appear in court on May 29. He is charged with felony aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. He has a lengthy previous criminal record including making a terroristic threat, DWI, child endangerment, assault and more. Despite several attempts, The Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s public information department declined to return calls to answer questions about the case.