Incidents occurred in Owls Head, Thomaston

UPDATE: Police investigate separate incidents of children approached by strangers in vans

Posted:  Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 3:30pm
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OWLS HEAD and THOMASTON — Knox County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll said on Wednesday, September 20 that that an investigation into an incident involving a young girl who was approached Monday by three men in a white van offering her a ride has yet to yield further information and is ongoing. Additionally, Thomaston police are now investigating a second, similar incident.

The second incident occurred Wednesday, September 20 near F&A Market in Thomaston.

Thomaston Police Sergeant Olaf Sigaud said a male student was riding his bicycle to a Thomaston school, which he declined to name citing the student's privacy, when a stranger in a white van pulled up alongside him and offered him a ride. According to Sigaud, the van was traveling in the same direction as the boy was cycling.

The boy "declined the ride and continued on his way," Sigaud said.

The student told his mother who subsequently posted about the incident on Facebook, alerting the community. The Thomaston Police Department was also made aware of the incident, which prompted them to interview the student's mother, Sigaud explained.

The driver of the vehicle involved in the Thomaston incident is described as being white and overweight with a goatee. He had a “deep voice,” and was wearing sunglasses when he approached the boy, and was driving a white van with a dent in the rear driver's side door, said Sigaud.

Sigaud said that at this time police have "no conclusive evidence" that the incidents in Thomaston and Owls Head are related. He urged the public to contact Knox County Regional Communication Center with any information.

The Owls Head incident occurred on Monday, September 18 on Ash Point Drive when a young girl was approached around 3:00 p.m. by a small white van with three male occupants inside. The girl reported that the men offered her a ride, telling her that it “would be quicker” for her to allow them to drive her to her destination. The girl reportedly ran into the bushes, and then made her way back to her nearby residence, according to a statement issued by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office on Monday afternoon.

The girl described the van as having a “donut tire” on the side. She described two of the occupants, including the driver, who she told police had black hair and beard. Another occupant of the vehicle was described as having blonde hair and no facial hair. The girl believed the men were 30 to 40 years old, according to Monday’s statement from police.

The Knox County Sheriff’s office stated on their Facebook page that the girl was “assertive” with the men and repeatedly refused their offers of a ride, telling them “no.”

Carroll directed inquiries to a statement on the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page which gives tips on safety for parents to discuss with their children. According to the Facebook post, there have been “many” inquiries about how to “best safeguard” children from strangers in the wake of the incident.

The tips provided on the KCSO Facebook Page include being aware of the whereabouts of your child, teaching children how to use the phone for emergencies, talking to children about new people they have met outside of a parent’s presence, establishing a code word to ensure that adults offering rides are approved, and more. The post goes on to include a detailed list of tips for sitters and caretakers, and can be viewed in full here.

“We are encouraging parents talk to their kids and be vigilant. We will have an increased presence in the area in marked and unmarked cars to ensure the kids feel safe.” Carroll said via email on Monday.
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At approximately 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 20 RSU 13 parents and other members of the school community received an email from Superintendent John C. McDonald discussing the two incidents:

“Dear Parents and Community Members:

“Recently, we have learned of an incident in Owls Head where a young student was approached by the driver of a white van with two other individuals as passengers, and offered a ride. These individuals were strangers to the student, who immediately refused the ride, left the area, and told adults that this had​ happened. I have had a report that this morning, a similar incident occurred in Thomaston, in which the driver of a white van offered a student a ride. The student refused the ride, went on their way and told adults. In both cases, the police were advised and are conducting investigations into the incidents. Our administrators and staff are also on alert, and are being watchful for any suspicious activity around our schools during the school day. This is an opportunity to speak with your children about safety. In both of these cases, the children did the right things. They refused to go with the stranger, they left the area immediately, and the told adults. I encourage you to have this conversation with your children. As always, safety for your children at school is our top priority, and I want to assure the public that we are working with our very professional and supportive police departments to increase vigilance and awareness at all of our school locations.

John C. McDonald, Superintendent RSU 13​”

KCSO Deputy Jeremy Joslyn is investigating the Owls Head incident, Thomaston Police are investigating the incident that occurred there.
 
Carroll and Sigaud separately stated that anyone with information about either incident is encouraged to call the Knox County Regional Communication Center at (207) 593-9132, or call 911.
 
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Jenna Lookner can be reached at jlooknercopy@gmail.com