Friday, April 14, 2006

Ketchum man arrested in child abduction case

Police say alleged kidnapping victim shows no sign of sexual assault

Express Staff Writer

Robert Joe Harrison, Jr. Photo by David N. Seelig

A Ketchum resident employed by the federal Transportation Security Administration was arrested Tuesday on one count of second-degree kidnapping.

Robert Joe Harrison, Jr., 49, was taken into custody at approximately 8:30 p.m. April 11 in connection with an incident involving a 10-year-old boy, the Ketchum Police Department reported.

"While (the boy) was walking along the street he was confronted by the arrested person. He was enticed by the (suspect) into his vehicle," Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman said Thursday during a press conference. Officials with the TSA—a division of the Department of Homeland Security—and the Blaine County School District attended the conference.

Lyman said authorities have "no indication" the suspect and the child knew each other.

Harrison allegedly took the boy to his residence and later released him, police said.

When the child told his mother what happened, she notified school officials, who then told Ketchum police, a Ketchum Police Department news release said.

Officers went to the suspect's home Tuesday and arrested him without incident.

Harrison was booked into the Blaine County Jail and bond was set at $500,000.

Police seized items from Harrison's residence, but they wouldn't reveal what those items were.

"There are indications the (suspect) may be involved in other activities," Lyman said. He declined to comment further.

Lyman said there were no signs a sexual assault had occurred.

Harrison has been working at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey as a transportation security officer, commonly referred to as a screener. He has been employed by the TSA for three years, and came to Idaho approximately a year ago from the Walla Walla, Wash., area, said Carrie Harmon, TSA's regional public affairs manager.

All security screening personnel go through a background check, she said.

The agency has a "zero tolerance" policy for criminal behavior, she noted.

"The employee has been placed on indefinite suspension without pay," Harmon said. "The TSA revoked his government I.D. and credentials."

Blaine County School District officials said they are preparing a package of safety tips for children and their parents, and they encourage kids to feel comfortable bringing questions or incidents to their attention.

"The primary concern of ours is the safety of our children," said Don Haisley, Hemingway Elementary School principal.

"We feel very good by the fact that the community has been made safe (by the arrest)," Lyman said. "It was a cooperative effort between the school district, the TSA and the Blaine County prosecutor."

The Ketchum Police Department is continuing the investigation.

"These kids are put in a very difficult situation when these (incidents) occur," Lyman said. "These victims are fragile. They will tend to blame themselves. (But) if an adult outwits a child, it's not their fault."

Harrison's preliminary hearing has been set for April 18.

Second-degree kidnapping carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

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