OLYMPIA – The Washington State Attorney General’s Office has released a follow-up study to its nationally-recognized 1997 study on child abduction murders. The 2006 study completed earlier this year adds another 175 additional solved cases to the research and presents some surprising new findings.
"While "stranger danger" continues to be a threat to children, this new study reveals that nearly an equal number of killers are known to their victims," McKenna said. "Based on the results of this study, parents need to warn their children not just to avoid getting into cars with strangers, but to not even approach a car, whether the occupant is a stranger or not- no matter what they tell them."
The 1997 study was the result of three and a half years of research, designed to examine the investigation process of child abduction murder cases. With the financial aid of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, researchers studied more than 600 child abduction murder cases nationwide and interviewed the investigating detectives.
The collected data gave law enforcement a better understanding of effective investigation techniques, as well as valuable methods to protect children. The 2006 follow-up study echoes and supports the findings of the initial report with some significant differences.
- With more killers identified, researchers found the threat that the killer will be a friend or acquaintance is nearly equal to that of a stranger.
- The probability that the killer’s name will come up during the first week of the investigation has decreased.
- The use of pornography by killers as a trigger to murder has increased.
- In 74 percent of the cases, the child murder victim was female and the average age was 11 years old.
- In 44 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were strangers, but in 42 percent of the cases, the victim and killers were friends or acquaintances.
- Only about 14 percent of the cases involved parents or intimates killing the child.
- Almost two-thirds of the killers have prior arrests for violent crimes, with slightly more than half of those prior crimes committed against children.
- The primary motive for the child abduction killer is sexual assault.
- In nearly 50 percent of the cases, more than two hours passed between the time someone realized the child was missing and the time police were notified.
- In 76 percent of the cases, the child was dead within three hours of the abduction- and in 88.5 percent of the cases the child was dead within 24 hours.
Key Recommendations for Child Safety:
- Be aware that children are not immune from abduction because they are close to home. More than half of the study’s abductions took place within three city blocks of the victim’s home.
- Be certain that your children are supervised-even if they are in their own front yard or neighborhood street. Approximately one-third of the abductions occurred within one-half block of the victim’s home.
- Teach your children never to approach a car- whether the occupant is a stranger or not- no matter what the occupant tells them or asks them.
Be aware of strangers and unusual behavior in your neighborhoods. Many child abductions are witnessed by people who do not realize that a crime in being committed.
- If our child is ever missing, CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY. An immediate response to a missing or abducted child may be the difference between life and death.
Download the entire report
Meet the research team
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Media Contact: Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725