Erin Tatchell is taking nothing for granted in protecting her 9-year-old son, after a stranger may have attempted to lure him into a van near their Sylvania home.
She now walks with her son to Mapleview Elementary in the morning and is there waiting for him at the building when school ends to take him home.
Since the Jan. 25 incident when a man driving a white van asked her son if he wanted a ride home from school, Mrs. Tatchell said she has noticed a change in how her neighbors are now watching out more for their children.
“Everybody is looking out for everybody,” she said. “This has made me aware that Sylvania is not as safe as I thought it was.”
According to Sylvania Schools district officials, a second child was approached Wednesday by a man who was driving a white van, similar to the vehicle that was driven by the man who approached Mrs. Tatchell’s son.
The middle-school girl was walking home from school in the afternoon on Roberts Road near West Alexis Road in Sylvania Township where she said a man driving a van with a ladder rack began talking with her. However, she ran away.
A third incident reported Friday by an 11-year-old girl was deemed a hoax later in the day after Sylvania Township police talked to the student’s grandmother and determined she made it up.
According to police, Mrs. Tatchell’s son and the other student described the vehicle as being a white panel van, but they were unable to recall the make or model or recall a lot of distinguishing characteristics of the drivers.
Sylvania Township Police Chief Robert Boehme is skeptical the incidents were related, in part, because they occurred some distance from one another.
“I don’t have all the first-hand knowledge on the city’s incident. There’s some things that don’t match up,” Chief Boehme said.
Overall, the case is unusual for an area such as Sylvania Township and Sylvania, the chief said.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time we had an incident like this,” Chief Boehme said. “It’s a very uncommon thing.”
Chief Boehme said getting an accurate description of the suspect has been difficult because of the children’s ages. So far, the department has been able to infer the man is white, balding with gray hair, who could be in his mid-40s to mid-60s.
Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies contacted township police detectives on Friday after learning about the second incident because of a similar incident on Jan. 18 in Bedford Township, just north of the Ohio-Michigan line.
Detectives working the case said a white van drove slowly near a girl who was waiting for a school bus, but took off when the student’s grandfather walked out of the house in the direction of the vehicle.
Even if the person is apprehended, Mrs. Tatchell said she likely will continue walking with her son to and from school.
“I sure hope the police can catch him before he gets lucky. This is nerve-racking,” she said.
Contact Kelly McLendon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-206-0356 or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.