This time last night, the parents of Brittany Thompson, age 17, had to have been in one of the worst circumstances that life can bring to parents: Their 17 year-old daughter had disappeared on Monday, last seen leaving the Medfield Public Library with an unknown man wearing a rather frightening T-shirt. Making matters worse, it seems that the young girl had been visiting dating web sites online, and may have made a terrible mistake in agreeing to meet a stranger, unaccompanied by anyone else.
A coordinated public effort went into high gear Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Medfield Police Department and Massachusetts State Police holding press conferences and distributing information releases to news media outlets and social media. Fox 25 News Boston and WBZ News/CBS Boston were especially helpful. Too often in these types of suspected abduction/kidnapping cases, the story ends in horrific tragedy.
This time, gratefully, there was a very different ending:
Brittany was found walking on a street in Coventry, Rhode Island yesterday morning, with an as-yet unidentified man from Missouri. Medfield Police Chief Robert Meaney announced the good news to the media in a press conference yesterday, mid-day. Both persons were identified by someone who recognized the girl from media reports and called the Coventry Police Department, who responded immediately. Young Ms. Thompson was reportedly not injured. Thompson’s parents immediately drove to Coventry to reunite with their daughter. According to police, Thompson’s parents reported they did not know who the man was that was found with Brittany. However, that man is being called a “person of interest” and he is being held in custody as of this hour, and will be arraigned on federal charges in the morning. While it’s not entirely clear right now what the charges against this person are, as a Boston, Massachusetts kidnapping lawyer, I can say with a high degree of confidence that the charges probably relate to transportation of a minor across state lines for sexual purposes. That’s the reason this person is being charged with a federal crime, and details about the exact charges will be provided in federal court in Providence in the morning, when the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office lays out the precise charges.
Gratefully, this is a story with a happy ending. The majority of abduction cases don’t have a happy ending. And actually, abduction cases are legally different from kidnapping cases. In many cases involving Massachusetts kidnapping charges, a non-custodial parent has either kept a minor child in excess of the time period that a custody order from a probate court allows, or they have altogether taken the child away from his/her home, and not returned. These sad stories usually don’t involve a threat to the child’s safety, but rather the “kidnapping” parent is acting out anger against his or her divorced spouse, or custodial parent.
Regardless, as a Massachusetts kidnapping attorney, I urge all parents to enroll their children in self-defense classes – both girls AND boys. It is a sad reality, but a reality no less, that we live in a dangerous world. Everyone – especially children – should know the basics of self-defense, and how to fight off an attacker. By the way, I practice what I preach in this regard: Both I and my wife are students in Combat Sambo – a highly effective system of Russian self-defense, without weapons. We’ve been students for five years now, and I highly recommend this extremely valuable self-defense training.