September 15, 2009

As police search Garrido's home in other child abductions, more suspicious activity reported around Walnut Creek school kids

UPDATE: School officials warn of suspicious activity around Walnut Acres Elementary and Walnut Creek Intermediate and in the Parkmead Elementary area. reports that the principal of Walnut Acres Elementary in Walnut Creek had sent out a notice regarding an incident earlier today. A young man on foot, and "mumbling under his breath," approached a fourth-grader at Walnut Acres back gate after school was dismissed. The student stomped on the man's foot and ran away to safety. "Please note that this man does not match the description of the person involved in the situations at Pleasant Hill Middle School," wrote Principal Colleen Dowd.

Early today, I reported that Walnut Creek School District Superintendent Patricia Wool had just sent out this advisory to parents, about two incidents involving men with cameras, possibly photographing students. One was in the Parkmead area and one was near Walnut Creek Intermediate.

School and police officials are on alert following the possible attempted kidnapping of children near Pleasant Hill Middle School and in Concord, and of a man and woman acting suspiciously around Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek. To read more about these incidents, click here.

I wouldn't be surprised if some of these alerts to police and school officials have to do with heightened awareness about stranger abductions in light of all the publicity surrounding the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who, now 29, was discovered living with a registered sex offender in Antioch since her 1991 kidnapping.

Police, by the way, are back at Garrido's home today, searching it and a neighboring property for clues in two other child kidnappings from the late 1980s: the November 1988 abduction of 9-year-old Michaela Garecht of Hayward and the January 1989 kidnapping of 13-year-old Ilene Misheloff of Dublin. Hayward police, in particular, are following up on "probably the strongest lead that's ever come in," regarding Michaela's abduction. She was pulled into a car by a man, the police sketch of whom bears a resemblance to photos of Garrido in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the time of Michaela's abduction, Garrido was living in a halfway house in Oakland.

Anyway, here is Wool's letter:

Dear Walnut Creek School Community:

The Walnut Creek School District is trying to keep you up to date as information comes into the district about descriptions of suspicious actions in the area. I just met with my principals and will pass on two incidents concerning potential photography of students. The first was a sighting of a man in the Parkmead area taking pictures of WCI students at the bus stop. The police were called, and this proved to be someone who lives in the area concerned about traffic and student safety.

The second incident occurred yesterday at WCI where some female PE students reported a man allegedly taking pictures of a PE class from the trail. The girls reported the man to the principal; the East Bay Regional Park District Police were called and did an area check. They found nothing.

We are all trying to be vigilant and will report to the community potential threats. Please know that the police are called, and the administration does follow up on all incidents.

Students at the middle school and elementary schools have been briefed by teachers and administration twice. Students are certainly encouraged to not walk alone to or from school. Again, we will continue to provide information as it becomes available.

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