Abductors Use 'Lures' to Trick Children

Child safety expert identified common "lures" used by child molesters.

ByABC News
April 14, 2010, 11:47 AM

April 14, 2010— -- The abduction case of 7-year-old Somer Thompson in Orange Park, Fla., has refocused attention on the threat of violent, sexual predators who prey on children.

Somer had been last seen walking home from school last October with her older sister, Abby, and twin brother Samuel. Her body was found two days later in a Georgia landfill.

After a five month investigation by police, Jarred Harrell was charged March 26 with first-degree murder, sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation of a child younger than 12. Harrell, 24, pleaded not guilty to killing Somer.

Police said they believe Harrell encountered Somer as she walked by his house on her way home from school on Gano Avenue, where his mother and stepfather had a house. Police said they have evidence that Harrell then assaulted Somer, killed her and disposed of her body.

Child safety experts said there are concrete things parents can teach their children to make them more aware of the dangers of walking away with a stranger. Ken Wooden, who studied the tactics that predators use to lure children, led a seminar at the First Baptist Church of Orange Park in March, to teach parents in Somer's community how to educate kids to keep them safe.

Wooden said the biggest mistake parents make is to think it's enough to tell children, "Don't talk to strangers."

"In the eyes of a kid, a stranger is some character who's very scary and a monster type," Wooden said. In reality, though, molesters can look like ordinary, friendly, engaging adults, Wooden warned.

As part of a "Primetime" segment, Wooden identified 16 "lures" commonly used by child molesters and abductors and demonstrated the effectiveness of such lures at a Virginia playground.

'Pet Lure' Used by Predators

John Wayne Gacy, who killed more than 30 boys near Chicago in the 1970s, used something Wooden calls the "job lure." Gacy would ask his victims to run errands for him and then come to his house to get paid.

Serial killer Ted Bundy is believed to have lured one of his victims, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, by using an "emergency lure." He tricked the girl by telling the girl her house was on fire and she should follow him.

Predators often win a child's trust by asking for their assistance, such as asking directions or, in what Wooden said is a common ploy, the "pet lure," where a predator approaches a child and asks if they had seen his dog.