5-year-old safe after police nab kidnap suspect

Police say attempt was rare, as transient didn't know boy

Police on Monday arrested a 47-year-old transient who tried to snatch a 5-year-old boy away from his mother on a west Medford corner in what police are calling a rare stranger-to-stranger attempted abduction here.

Robert Vincent Jones is accused of grabbing the boy while he was walking with his mother and trying to drag him into an orange Ford Mustang with a black hood at about 9:18 a.m. Monday at the intersection of Monroe and Grape streets, police said.

The mother intervened, and the pair escaped to her nearby car. Jones allegedly fled the scene as the mother called police from her cellphone, authorities said. "This is a straight-up stranger (attempted) abduction," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.

"These cases are very rare. Stranger abductions in Medford happen every 10 to 20 years.

"It's chilling to think what would have happened if this mother hadn't intervened," he said.

Investigators also are looking into whether Jones was responsible for a June 4 attempted abduction at gunpoint of an 8-year-old boy who also escaped.

In that case, the man was described as about 50 years old with a dark complexion and a goatee, and the vehicle was described as a red Dodge Challenger with a black stripe down the hood.

"It's oddly familiar," Budreau said. "It would be odd that there would be two men trying to take male children in similar-colored vehicles."

However, Lt. Jim Hamilton from the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety said late Monday that, based on initial information about the Medford case, his detectives do not consider Jones a "viable suspect" in their case, but they plan to review it more with Medford detectives.

"It doesn't mean we've ruled it out 100 percent," Hamilton said. "Things may change."

Most kidnappings and attempted kidnappings involving children tend to be over custodial or otherwise family-related, Budreau said. Most stranger-to-stranger kidnappings target, on average, 11-year-old girls, he said.

In Monday morning's case, Jones allegedly stopped his vehicle in the street, grabbed the child's arm, and told the mother that he was going to take him, police said.

"It's very brazen that he would do it in front of the mother," Budreau said.

About 35 minutes after the would-be abductor fled, police spotted and stopped the suspect's vehicle in the 500 block of South Riverside Avenue and found Jones behind the wheel, police said.

Jones was identified as the alleged attacker and was arrested on a charge of attempted second-degree kidnapping, police said. His vehicle, which was registered to Jones and was insured, also was seized pending a search once a warrant could be obtained, Budreau said.

Instantly, police noticed the similarities of this case with the Grants Pass attempted abduction, and Grants Pass investigators were called from the arrest scene, Budreau said.

Medford police crossed paths with Jones on May 31 when police were called to an apartment on Crater Lake Avenue where Jones had locked himself in a bathroom and had made suicidal threats, Budreau said. Officers found Jones, and they took him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center's psychiatric unit, Budreau said.

After his Monday arrest, Jones spoke to investigators, who said they have no motive for the attempted kidnapping, said Budreau, who declined to discuss Jones' statements to police.

Jones was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on $15,000 bail.

Court records show Jones had a string of traffic offenses in Jackson County from 1984 to 1999, but no felony cases against him here and nothing in Jackson County courts since 1999.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.


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