When a man kidnapped a 10-year-old girl outside the former Girls Inc. in Seymour in January 1999 and sexually molested her, it changed the safe feeling of a small-town community.
Families began paying closer attention to where their children were and made a stronger effort to teach kids to stay away from strangers.
Policies at Girls Inc., which moved to a new location on North O’Brien Street in 2008, already required parents to come into the building to pick up their children. But those efforts to protect members strengthened even more.
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On Friday morning, police and federal authorities officially announced the suspect, Charles Hollin, 61, had been arrested in Oregon and would be transported back to Indiana to face state and federal charges in the case.
Hollin faces two Class B felony counts of confinement with a deadly weapon and three Class A felony counts of child molestation, which were filed by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office in February 2000.
Hollin lived in the Clearspring area at the time of the kidnapping but fled Indiana and went to Minnesota, officials said. In 2007, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He became one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives.
If convicted of the crimes, Hollin could face up to eight years in prison for the federal charges and decades on the local charges, officials said.
Last month, the FBI was able to locate Hollin using facial analysis, comparison and evaluation technology that identified a passport application photo of Andrew David Hall.
The FBI said Hollin assumed the identity of Hall, an 8-year-old boy who had been killed in a car accident in 1975 in Fayette County, Kentucky, in order to obtain a driver’s license, birth certificate, Social Security card and passport. He is facing federal charges of identity theft, too.
It was believed Hollin used fake hairpieces, mustaches and other means of disguising himself and even told a co-worker, “If you want to and know how, you can become someone else, just like that, real easy,” officials said.
And for the past 18 years, he did.
Earlier this week, FBI agents apprehended Hollin in Salem, Oregon, at a Walmart Supercenter, where he worked. He remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service in Portland, Oregon, awaiting extradition to Indiana.
Todd Prewitt of Seymour, a special agent with the FBI who works out of Bloomington, said the case was personal because it happened in his hometown. It’s one of the reasons why he never gave up the hunt for Hollin, he said. Prewitt was an Indiana State Police detective at the time of the kidnapping.
“It was frustrating,” he said of the case. “I can’t even begin to tell you the number of leads, possible lookalikes or people who thought they saw him, that you go down and it’s a dead end or doesn’t pan out.”
But knowing Hollin is now in custody and off the streets makes all of the time and effort worth it, he added.
Prewitt said Hollin was smart and resourceful to be able to obtain and maintain a new identity for so long. Agents followed leads around the world, officials said.
Jackson County Prosecutor AmyMarie Travis said the work of all of those involved in arresting Hollin should be remembered and used as an example.
“It is my hope that their efforts will begin the process of giving closure to the victim and survivor in this case,” she said. “Perhaps the tireless work of law enforcement in this case will give a measure of hope to other victims awaiting justice and serve as a warning to other fugitives that we will not stop looking for them.”
Rexanne Ude of Seymour was executive director of Girls Inc. at the time of the incident and said she went to the hospital emergency room with the victim and her father after she was found.
The young girl had been lured by the suspect, who asked her to help retrieve his keys from his locked vehicle, according to police records. He then placed his hand over her mouth and directed her into the car at knifepoint while threatening to kill her.
He drove to a secluded area near Cortland, where he sexually molested her and left her naked on a county road, throwing out her clothes as he left, police said. The girl was found and rescued by a passing motorist.
Hollin was identified as a suspect in the case from evidence collected at the scene, including a coat and a day planner that belonged to Hollin and DNA evidence in the car, which later was recovered.
Seymour officer Jack Hauer was one of the original officers to work the case. He now is a school resource officer for Seymour Community School Corp.
He said at the time, the community feared that an unknown suspect accused of kidnapping and molesting a child was at large in the area. But law enforcement did all they could to find the suspect, he said.
“At the time, the process was slow. It took time to get everything lined up to where we could get a warrant to make an arrest,” he said.
Hauer said he is thankful for the work of the state police, the FBI and the U.S. marshal’s office in continuing to pursue the case all these years.
“I’m thankful for their perseverance and professionalism and that all this has come together and the man we were looking for is now in jail,” he said. “Justice will be done.”
Ude said not a year has passed since it happened when she doesn’t think about the girl and her family, especially on the anniversary, which is coming up Friday.
Even though she no longer works at Girls Inc., Ude said it’s still difficult to talk about it. She said she fears there are other victims who haven’t come forward.
“Girls who come to Girls Inc. are like family, and we’re there to protect them,” she said with tears filling her eyes. “I can remember other than the immediate concern for the family and the victim that we were concerned with safety. Had we done anything different prior, would it have helped?”
The club already had added a glass vestibule area at the front doors that girls were not allowed to leave until their parents arrived to get them.
But Hollin came up to the doors and opened them to talk to the girl and lure her out, Ude said.
“When you have someone who is out to do something evil, they will find a way to do it, no matter what,” she said.
Ude said it feels good knowing justice will finally be done. But she knows the victim and her family will never be able to put what happened behind them, she said.