Free-Range Kids

Family Fakes Gunpoint Kidnapping of 6-Year-Old to Teach Him Not to Be Nice to Strangers

Boy's aunt told him he would be sold into sexual slavery

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Kid
David R. Tribble / Wikimedia Commons

A Lincoln County, Missouri, woman grew concerned that her 6-year-old nephew was "too nice"—too liable to be taken advantage of by a stranger, according to The Washington Post. And so, with the permission of the boy's mother, she hired a gas station attendant to kidnap him at gunpoint, tie him up, blindfold him, and drive him to a basement (the boy's own, unbeknownst to him).

The aunt who thought up this brilliant plan joined the kidnapper in the basement. She told the boy he would be "sold into sex slavery," and never see his parents again. To underscore her point, she pulled his pants down. According to The Post, she was disappointed that he didn't even try to resist.

Eventually, they let him go and explained:

Then he was left alone, in the basement — bound and unable to see — before the family called the whole thing off.

When they finally unbound his hands and feet, they told him to go upstairs, where he got a lecture about "stranger danger." According to police, the family didn't think they did anything wrong because they were simply trying to teach him a lesson.

Officials at the boy's school learned of the kidnapping and contacted the authorities. The police have arrested the boy's aunt, mother, grandmother, and the gas station attendant. The charges range from felony kidnapping to abuse and neglect of a child. The boy is now a ward of the state.

Obviously, these people acted completely insane. But underneath that insanity was a desire to protect their child from what they viewed as a legitimate threat: stranger danger.

Unfortunately for them—but quite fortunately for children everywhere—these fears are largely misplaced. While bad people do hurt kids, instances of that are rare. There are not hordes of child molesters lining every street corner, just waiting to abuse and murder any kid they can get their hands on.

Frankly, it's unwise to make kids unreasonably distrustful and fearful of strangers—a kid might find himself in a situation where he needs to ask for help from somebody he doesn't know. Of course, it's unwise and incredibly traumatizing to subject a kid to the kind of ordeal that this boy faced.

Sadly, this isn't the first time a family member has ever considered drastic action to make a kid paranoid about strangers. Reason's Lenore Skenazy—host of Discovery Life Channel's World's Worst Mom and advocate of free-range parenting—encountered a mom who wanted to hire a man to fake kidnappings of children in order to teach them lessons. Skenazy writes on her blog:

And on a strange side note, last week on my show World's Worst Mom, a mom I was trying to help had had this same idea, except as a business: She would hire a man with a van to "kidnap" kids off the street, to scare the pants off them. (Perhaps literally, like the parents above.)

Maybe that's not such a great idea, I tried to tell her. And I guess it's not even that original. (BTW: The schedule for my show is changing, so you can find out when it's airing here.) I guess if I get a second season, I may be heading to Missouri.

Read Skenazy's full Reason archive here.

NEXT: Steven Greenhut on Asset Forfeiture and 'Policing for Profit'

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  1. It amazes me that more than one batshit insane mom cooks up a plot like this.

    1. I disagree. If you accept the notion that there is a significant risk that your kid will be taken, tortured, raped, etc., it makes sense to take drastic measures to prevent that. This is a completely reasonable implementation of the conventional wisdom about child predators.

      It’s only batshit crazy because the actual danger is inflated by orders of magnitude by the government, media, etc.

  2. Jesus. This makes J Walter Weatherman look pretty tame in comparison.

    1. The only scary thing about a one-armed man trying to scare someone is the fact that he feels that his one arm is good for nothing but trying to scare somebody.

      1. that’s why you leave a note.

  3. But was the boy vaccinated?

    1. If it was about vaccines, then the aunt would of course be lauded.

      1. I know. I was totally about to hire Ronald Bailey to fake-give my kid the chicken pox. At the very least, tying my kid up in a basement will keep him from swinging his fists around on the street.

        1. Why fake-give him something he can be vaccinated for, when you can real-give him something by sending him to a school on Vashon Island?

          1. Great–I was worried that Bailey might be unavailable–how much do you charge? But, you know, if the gas station attendant really believed in the cause, he would have harmed the kid for free.

            1. It appears that all his guardians and caregivers believed in the cause. It was their choice, right? They’ll raise their kid the way they want to, you raise your kid the way YOU want to!

              1. Oh, I believe. But I can’t do it alone! I need BigPharma to lobby for their products to be mandatory purchases and a state-certified practitioner to cash the check–I mean, to deliver the injection. Gone are the days when we could hire gas station attendants to do our dirty work.
                By the way, saying that you’ll get chicken pox by going to an island where people aren’t vaxed is like saying that all women are pregnant because they’re not men. Gone are the days that abstinence was the only guarantee; we need a medical procedure.

                1. You forgot to crowbar the Koch brothers into that.

                2. Nice, NP.

    2. Charles, if you had put an over/under of 5 minutes on your vax grenade, I might have taken the bet! In case you were alluding to Mall Rats with your question, here’s the answer: there are just some things you don’t talk about in public!

      Speaking of Mall Rats: that kid is back on the escalator (talking to strangers) again!

      1. Don’t eat the pretzels, NP. No matter who offers them to you, do NOT eat the pretzels.

  4. Well the kid will never forget to leave a note now.

    1. +1 J. Walter Weatherman

  5. The police have arrested the boy’s aunt, mother, grandmother, and the gas station attendant. The charges range from felony kidnapping to abuse and neglect of a child. The boy is now a ward of the state.

    Great job everybody. Hope you are proud of yourselves.

    1. What? The cops? Yeah, they’ll really fuck up this already messed up family.

  6. Hey Bob, would you rape my kid so he knows better than to hang out with his creepy uncle?

  7. “Obviously, these people acted completely insane. But underneath that insanity was a desire to protect their child from what they viewed as a legitimate threat: stranger danger.”

    Yeah, this is a legitimate response to the warnings.

    If they committed a crime, it was taking all the warnings really seriously.

  8. “BANG. You’re dead, Tweak.”

  9. I posted this in Morning Links. No H/T. Robby don’t believe in no H/T.

    1. He’s afraid you might not have vaccinated your children, and that he will catch the measles.

      1. No, he’s aware that I am the danger.

  10. So what if the gas station attendant was actually a bad guy who liked kidnapping children?

    1. It’s nice to get paid for doing something you love.

      1. …Never work a day in your life

    2. What if the cops had witnessed the kidnapping? Gas station guy, the kid, and his dog, if any, would probably have been shot as they unloaded all available magazines into the getaway car.

  11. Where’s the boy’s father?

    1. In prison for marijuana possession, because we can’t allow that kind of thing around kids.

      1. I really hope you’re joking, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    2. What happened when his mom was nice to strangers?

  12. Pro Tip: if a stranger puts a gun in your face, it’s best to be as nice as possible.

    1. If kids were allowed to carry guns, none of this would have happened.

  13. Jesus. Free-range kids? Really?

    1. They taste better that way.

      1. Chipotle has a new supply source for “Carnitas”.

  14. They should’ve called the basement “school” then it would’ve been OK.

    1. And the pulling down of the pants “taxation”.

  15. A Lincoln County, Missouri, woman grew concerned that her 6-year-old nephew was “too nice”?too liable to be taken advantage of by a stranger … she hired a gas station attendant to kidnap him at gunpoint, tie him up, blindfold him, and drive him to a basement

    *facepalm* So… she was worried that the kid was too nice and trusting of strangers, so she gets a stranger to stage a fake kidnapping. How did she know the guy wouldn’t take the kid for real? And she thought the kid was too trusting? Really?

    To underscore her point, she pulled his pants down. According to The Post, she was disappointed that he didn’t even try to resist.

    How is she supposed to get wet if doesn’t try to fight back? (yes, I just went there, I think the aunt most likely has some deeply disturbing psychoses)

    Serisouly though, he’s six, and his hands were tied. What did she expect, some Jackie Chan shit from a six year old?

    1. Was the aunt acting out a fantasy?

    2. “How did she know the guy wouldn’t take the kid for real?”

      I thought he *did* take the kid for real.

      1. Touche. I meant how did she know he wouldn’t take someplace other than their own basement and disappeared with him, never to be seen again.

  16. Isn’t a child statistically more likely to be harmed by someone he knows?

    1. This seems to be a datum point in favor of that statistic, no?

  17. Proven true in this case

    1. @cavalier973

  18. The police have arrested the boy’s aunt, mother, grandmother, and the gas station attendant. The charges range from felony kidnapping to abuse and neglect of a child. The boy is now a ward of the state.

    This is one case where I think arresting the fucks and taking the child is justified. I just hope he has some non-batshit crazy grandparents, father, or other close family members that are willing to take custody of him as opposed to the foster system. Fuck these people, seriously.

    1. In attempting to scare the boy, using one of the worst possible scenarios, she has actually accomplished another of the worst possible scenarios, he’s now a ward of the state.

  19. It’s a good thing they didn’t try to teach him why he should be afraid of ISIS.

    1. Or Christians!

      /PB

  20. There is something very wrong with every single person involved with this (except the kid). You have to have something wrong with you to think that this is a good idea. Or to accept money to kidnap the kid. Maybe they’re all functionally retarded, that might explain it.

    1. You beat me to it. Whenever I read a story about parents who killed their kid because they decided it was possessed, I asked, “What are the chances that two people with the exact same kind of crazy get married.”

      I told my wife that if she decided my daughter was possessed and thought that we should kill her, I’d have some objections to the plan.

      1. Well, in this case it seems like a couple of generations of women on one side of the family conspired on this lunacy, plus some crackhead from down at the gas station.

      2. There has to be some sadistic fucked up impulse in the people who do this, or who do surprise fake active shooter situations and stuff like that. It’s the only explanation. They must want to do it so badly that it overrides the realization that 1) this is fucking insane and utterly wrong, and 2) you can and probably will get in HUGE trouble over it. The question then is, why is doing this so intoxicating to these people? Because whenever we hear stories like this, the perpetrators seem WAY into it (like pulling down the kid’s pants, which in and of itself is another colossal warning sign).

        1. These are the kind of people that are jealous when they see the parents of an actual victim on TV. It’s not fair that they don’t get to be “TV Stars”, too.

          1. munchausen by proxy.

            1. Everybody wants a combat badge but no one wants to get shot at.

      3. “I told my wife that if she decided my daughter was possessed and thought that we should kill her, I’d have some objections to the plan.”

        Stop mansplaining to her, Paul!

        1. It’s more of a negotiation.

  21. On the positive side, he’ll ace SERE someday.

    1. SERE Instructor: “You’re going to tell me what I want to know if you know what’s good for you.” *pulls down trainee’s pants to clip jumper cable leads to testicles*

      Trainee: *having flashback to fake kidnapping episode from when he was six* “No Aunt Denise, don’t pull my pants down!”

      Instructor: *completely confused* “What the fuck!?”

      Trainee: “You’re not my supervisor!” /Archer reference

  22. I have some questions about the gas station attendant who thought this was an awesome idea.

  23. Is this any worse than the schools that do Active Shooter drills without informing the students?

    1. Probably yes, but still…

  24. I have a six-year-old son. He’s pretty nice. It never occurred to me that I should be training him like a fighting dog.

    1. Get on the ball and scare the ever-living shit out of him.

      1. I can recommend some secluded swamps.

  25. so we are now arresting people for being stupid? And to be totally clear, this was a moronic thing to do. I am not sure arresting those involved solves anything and I am totally sure that making the child a ward of the state won’t help him.

    If someone can show a pattern of the boy having been mistreated by relatives in the past, then fine. But I’m leaning toward smacking the grownups in the head and asking ‘what the hell were you thinking?’

    1. That’s where I am. If this isn’t a repeat thing you’ll be lucky the kid even remembers it when he is ten. How can making him a ward of the state (where he might really be sexually abused) a good thing in this situation?

    2. Yeah, I had a problem with that too. How you train your kid should be up to you. This went too far, but why are all of these people being arrested?

      The boy is now a ward of the state.

      So, he was actually kidnapped by strangers after all.

    3. It’s not just for being stupid, it’s for acting on that stupidity in a way that fucks up a 6 YO. This is not some party game adults might play on each other, this is armed kidnapping.

      You need a pattern? I don’t. A single example like this of a meticulously premeditated act that several family members participated in is enough to say they should never be given a chance to establish a pattern.

      Making the child a ward of the state is just the necessity of law. It’s the only way he can legally be gotten out from under that part of his family, and it’s a temporary expedient. Probably other family members will adopt him. And while it’s always possible he could wind up in a worse situation, I’d say the odds are much better for him than letting him stay with that mother, aunt, and grandma.

  26. The police have arrested the boy’s aunt, mother, grandmother, and the gas station attendant. The charges range from felony kidnapping to abuse and neglect of a child.

    If the parents had agreed to it, how can it be kidnapping?

    1. Lemme look back & see if you’re among those who complained about Rand Paul’s off-the-cuff remark about parents’ owning their children.

    2. I had the same question. I can see prosecuting them for assault with a deadly weapon, but I don’t see how parents with legal custody of a minor child can be guilty of kidnapping.

      1. The Wikipedia entry says:

        A parent should only be prosecuted for kidnapping his own child “in exceptional cases, where the conduct of the parent concerned is so bad that an ordinary right-thinking person would immediately and without hesitation regard it as criminal in nature”.

  27. Jesus, the actual Post article actually makes it more awful than I already thought. After the gas guy lures him into his pickup truck, he tells the boy he’s going to “nail him to the wall of a shed.” Fukda?

  28. Is satire possible anymore?

  29. Wait a minute. You’re not allowed to fake kidnap your own kid? What’s the point of even owning them then?

    1. You don’t own them, sheesh. The state does. (Proof: Try telling the school district that “your” kid is taking tomorrow off for an educational trip, without ten days’ notice).

      1. The school district will never even meet my kids.

    2. What’s the point of even owning them then?

      To unleash them on the school system. It’s how you get back at the teachers unions for all the taxes you’ve paid over your lifetime.

    3. The resale value of their organs peaks around 18, after that…. well, Thunderdome, if they can put up an entertaining fight.

      1. Who run Crazy Town?

  30. ” She told the boy he would be “sold into sex slavery,” and never see his parents again.”

    to a 6yr old?

    He’d be like, “DOES SLAVERY HAVE ICE CREAM? YAY!! what’s a sexual?”

    1. if someone tried selling this as a fictional tale, no one would believe it.

  31. This reminds me of my childhood. Fun times.

    We had a makeshift “dungeon” (not the sex kind) in the basement. We would tie eachother to poles and then leave and turn off the lights.
    We would play “prison” and lock someone in the dungeon (which consited of a wooden box with a burlap sack and some kitty litter), and feed them toast through a small hole.

    1. Kids are so cute!

      1. I should clarify that the “prisoners” always got tied up or locked in the dungeon voluntarily.
        We would take turns being the prisoner.

        1. Except for the part about leaving and turning off the lights. That was usually a surprise.

    2. Sounds like you’ll also be able to ace SERE training some day.

      1. I am an expert on getting myself untied. My boyfriend hates it.

        1. I envy your skill. My siblings where to young and stupid for me to pick up such skills. The best I got was the ability to pin someone my size or smaller to the ground until I got bored. It does work on both gender at least, though.

          1. But does it work on both sexes?

            Can you pin, say, a homosexual man trapped in a lesbian woman’s body?

    3. Your brother was Warty?

    4. That explains a lot.

      1. My dad also let me watch A Clockwork Orange when I was 12.

  32. How did this NOT take place in Florida? FM, y’all slipping.

  33. What might be fun would be hearing from the various people who were solicited to be kidnappers before they found the gas jockey.

    “I thought it was `Candid Camera’.”

    “I thought Denise was unrealistic when she tried to get me to sell Amway, but this was just off the wall.”

    “I told her this was the sort of crazy thing I’d expect from her friend at the gas station. I’m afraid I gave her that idea.”

  34. . . . a mom who wanted to hire a man to fake kidnappings of children in order to teach them lessons.

    Ah, an acolyte of the George Bluth school of child-rearing.

    Though I wonder if these people understand that you can’t *fake* a kidnapping. The guy actually has to kidnap the kid in order for this to happen.

  35. The aunt and mother are stupid, but one could argue that they are victims of our 24/7 news cycle and plethora of Law and Order SUV type shows. I think a better solution to this is to require the aunt to pay for counseling for the child and warn them all against doing stupid things. “Next time you have a really great idea like this, run it by the Chief of Police or the local Sheriff.”
    OTOH, now their sweet little boy HAS been kidnapped by a stranger. His life will now be infinitely worse than it would have been with a chastised mother.

  36. Here’s an angle I’m betting these latter-day Dr Spocks didn’t think of: I know–well–the families of at least a couple dozen of my kids’ school classmates, and if I saw a stranger abducting them on the street, I’d intervene. I typically don’t have a gun on me, but that doesn’t mean the “kidnapper” wouldn’t come out seriously the worse for wear. Maybe dead.

    Was the crazy aunt prepared to fund a pension for the gas station dude’s family if he was killed in action trying to implement her demented plan?

  37. The kidnapping charge will be dismissed. Neglect will likely be dropped too. Abuse? Depends on how the statute is written.

    While this probably isn’t the brightest approach to “stranger-proofing” a kid, it’s probably not criminal.

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