Monday, December 8th, 2008
Toddler found after taken in carjacking
By Margie Wuebker
Local resident Amanda Prichard remembers hearing television news reports about carjackings occurring in metropolitan areas with youngsters still strapped in backseat safety seats.
She never expected such a frightening incident would occur right here in Celina involving her 31/2-year-old son, Blayn.
Prichard went to Docksider Marathon on Sunday night for gas and then went inside to pay, leaving her 2001 Dodge Stratus running with the little boy securely belted.
"I was in there just long enough to pay the clerk," she told The Daily Standard this morning. "I walked out the door and the car was gone. I felt confused as I looked around; then I panicked."
Celina Police officers quickly responded to a 911 call placed at 7:37 p.m., with Mercer County Sheriff's deputies and troopers from the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol summoned for additional manpower.
Prichard remained at the 303 S. Main St. station with friends and family arriving to maintain a vigil. Some drove up and down city streets looking for the car decorated with an Ohio State University sticker in the back window while others prayed for a quick and safe return.
"I sent my nephew to the house because Blayn knows our address so somebody might take him there," she says. "A customer at the station told police a man wearing a hat and a scarf got in the car and drove away."
The car was located around 8:30 p.m. in an alley near the Celina Utilities Office on West Market Street with the young passenger unharmed and still belted in the backseat. The discovery came just as police were preparing to issue an amber alert.
"A dispatcher called me and instructed me to go there," Prichard said. "It seemed to take such a long time to get there with each minute seeming like an eternity. I was anxious because I did not know what to expect."
Blayn seemed nonplused by the turn of events, only crying when he saw his mother shed tears of happiness. He promptly assured everyone arriving on the scene "I wasn't scared."
"I picked him up and hugged him," she said. "Suddenly my shaking legs couldn't hold me and we both fell on the ground."
Police K9 units were brought in after the boy told authorities the man, who spoke very little, walked in the direction of nearby homes. The search covered several blocks but failed to turn up a suspect.
Prichard plans to go to the police station later today and watch a tape from surveillance cameras at the gas station. She hopes authorities find the man before he causes another person such fear and anguish.
Anyone with information concerning the incident is asked to contact Celina Police at 419-586-2345.
Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser encourages area residents to use caution as this marks the second time in a week that a car has been taken from a local gas station while the owner was inside paying. The first incident occurred Dec. 1 at a Marathon station on North Main Street. The vehicle belonging to Melissa Keith was later found abandoned.
"Everyone needs to look at these situations and consider the actions they take," the police chief said in a press release in reference to motorists, parents of young children and those who think it's OK to jump into someone else's car and take it. "The loss of your vehicle, the safety of your children or lengthy incarceration for felony offenses are all a big price to pay for saving a few minutes in the cold."