[Spencer Daily Reporter nameplate] Overcast ~ 45°F  
High: 48°F ~ Low: 42°F
Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Law enforcement seeks van, driver

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 ~ Updated 4:57 PM

Area law enforcement officials are searching for an older style, white van driven by a white male in his late 60s or early 70s. The individual in the van reportedly attempted to make contact with two young students at a Spencer elementary school playground earlier today. Similar incidents have occurred throughout northwest Iowa in the last two weeks. Individuals with information should contact their nearest law enforcement agency. Spencer Police Chief Mark Lawson is reminding parents to educate their children not to talk to strangers or get into a stranger's vehicle.

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on spencerdailyreporter.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

How __________ many older white vans are there running around N.W. Iowa? According to the Sioux City Journal there were at least four people that seen this van. Is it a cargo van, passenger van or a minivan? Other information that the Journal had was the driver has brownish gray hair and a beard in his 60's. And, in the Journal, Police Chief Lawson said that their not considering it an attempted abduction but a suspicious vehicle report. What then would it be called trying to lure children to a strange vehicle? 2 other law enforcement agencies have dealt with other people that have had situations with this guy. On September 3rd., in Lake Park,Iowa this guy tried getting a 13 year old girl in his van, I hope the Lake Park police department didn't consider this just a suspicious vehicle incident. Wake up and take this more seriously, I just hope and pray that this guy does not have tragic intentions.

-- Posted by older and wiser on Tue, Sep 11, 2012, at 10:23 PM

A big thank you to the Daily Reporter for their fact finding efforts on this article. I get more information about our community by reading other newspapers. We could be just as well looking for a needle in a hay stack. Thanks again.....

-- Posted by older and wiser on Tue, Sep 11, 2012, at 10:54 PM

Its was spotted out by the fair grounds today and was called into the security office by the guys at gate g but they told me nothing was done cause the chief at night did not want to have them go chasing around unknown vans WOW EVERY LEAD SHOULD BE CHECKED OUT EVERY LEAD......

-- Posted by moonman on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 3:35 AM

Our law enforcement to to busy trying to find people that are not wearing their seatbelts to worry about an abduction threat.

-- Posted by sick to death on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 8:02 AM

Hard to fathom they can't find this van. Clay County has more law enforcement personnel than at any time in history. The # of law enforcement officers per capita in the county is the highest in history. Every lead, every suspicion and every call should be investigated to the highest level. I assume this is being done, but after Evansdale there can be no tolerance or acceptance of anything less.

-- Posted by Comanche Alum on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 8:28 AM

Chief Lawson has proven that he does a terrific job in times like these. Everybody is quick to criticize but Chief Lawson is an experienced law enforcement officer and I have no doubt they are all over this.

-- Posted by financeman on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 8:45 AM

On my work yesterday, I counted 19 white vans...in a 20 minute drive. And on a positive note, I am certainly glad I do not drive a white van and be an older white male, I might get hurt.

-- Posted by Cookster on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 9:38 AM

If he is an abductor, he's the worst one ever. I'm not sure why they could not do something with the partial plate number I thought they had after the Lake Park incident. I thought they said they had a partial plate but it was unclear if it was from Clay or Dickinson.

I have heard it is an older Dodge Caravan, which I suppose would not completely rule out Plymouth Voyager or even Chrysler Town and Country if they're not sure. But how old? Late '90s/early 2000s Chrysler minivans are not THAT different from today's. Do they mean the late '80s/early '90s boxy style? Strange that the tinted windows are only or mostly in the back.

It's not that I have doubts about the abilities of law enforcement, but can we get a composite of this older white van with tinted back windows? Can they run the partial license plate through the computer and see what they get?

The story my 4th grade son told about the one at Lincoln yesterday was a little different from what was reported. But then on further questioning from me, he backed off what he said a bit, so I don't know if I came on too anxious/strong, so that I caused him to back off, or if he was a little mixed up about what happened. Usually he is a strong, forthright kid.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 9:57 AM

I work at the school n witnessed the van drive by so to help with description of the van its an older '94/'95 model white dodge caravan! the only window that looked tinted was the far back hatch one all the other windows were not tinted! props to the police for responding right away securing the schools the rest of the day! with all the calls being made n the help of the public i think they r on to something! ppl just need to stop critizing everything n know that the police are human n doing the best they can! as a community we need to help n stand united!

-- Posted by #1hawkfan on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 10:33 AM

It would be nice, since we do not have a daily paper, to see an article tomorrow that does have in-depth coverage, and maybe puts together all of the cases throughout the state and not just the area, which could be tied together. The time is certainly there to pull something together that was fact-filled and informative, and worked to dispel some of the rumors that are floating around.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 10:40 AM

Financeman - Do you suppose this is the only information he gave his officers - "An old white van with an old white driver." C'mon, the more information the citizens have, the easier it makes for us to help them. Have you heard of the term called TEAM WORK? I'm so sorry if I hurt your feelings, but what this creep has done in the past couple of weeks, "Suspicious Vehicle" my ass.

-- Posted by older and wiser on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 10:53 AM

older and wiser - Yes I think Chief Lawson should release everything they know so that the perp knows what they know. I'm sure it's very helpful to release all the evidence to the public in their efforts to trap this guy.

They know what they're doing. This isn't their first rodeo.

-- Posted by financeman on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 11:37 AM


Here's the alert from the Sioux Co. Sheriff, which I'm sure was taken off the Clay County website, or Clay faxed it to them for their info. Older white Dodge Caravan, older white guy with baseball cap of unknown color.

Yep, I think that's how it was reported, Older and Wiser.

I hope the media gets the complete facts as we know them released so that rumors and hysteria don't get someone hurt.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 11:55 AM

Well ride'm cowboy, the way they are giving out information, sounds like it's their first time.

-- Posted by older and wiser on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 11:57 AM

With all due respect to:

a-thought-or-two and AmyPeterson, what are the rumors you're talking about? And Amy, what hysteria? I think the things we've read about so far are factual, and from me, I hope I sound more ANGRY instead of hysterical. When it comes to the children in our community, especially the ones that aren't big enough to defend themselves, I'm going to go nuts when we can't protect them. Do you blame me?

-- Posted by older and wiser on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 1:01 PM

moonman- I agree!!! This man obviously isn't going to stop and EVERYTHING needs to be done to ensure this doesn't go on to a worse level.

#1hawkfan- THANK YOU so much. that really does help as I've had some questions about this! I do also understand that the cops are probably very busy which is why I personally am doing what I can to check out every van I see and drive passed the schools every chance I get to check things out. Its going to take work from everyone to get this man caught!

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 1:12 PM

I don't think I made myself very clear if you got the impression that I don't think this is a major deal. This has been going on across the state all summer, almost always the same make of vehicle. I'd like to see an actual good reporting of all the cases that are similar. I don't expect to see it, but it would be nice.

There are rumors flying all over facebook, including on the Reporter's facebook page, concerning the police having the guy's name, the police knowing he has many vehicles registered to him, all the little towns that have been hit, but not reported on...I'd like to see some of that cleared up. Some of it, I am sure is true, some of it, I am sure is not. It is not the police department's job to clear up all rumors, but accurate reporting by a news source or two would be great.

Please don't lump me into a group that feels like all of this is just great and fine and everything is done that should be done. I'd like some good reporting and I'd like to see a police agency somewhere in the state actually get this guy and stop him, sooner rather than later. My child was at Lincoln yesterday, and this isn't some small deal to me.

-- Posted by a-thought-or-two on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 1:17 PM

And to dear #1hawkfan, the description of the van that YOU gave, was more than what the police department gave out. So when it comes to the saftey of the children in our community, yes I'm going to be critical.

My biggest beef is that with 3 different law enforcement agencies over this time frame and all we get is old white van and old white guy.

-- Posted by older and wiser on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 1:28 PM

older and wiser -- I should have been more clear. I'm certainly not talking about you or about any other person on Daily Reporter so far, nor about the law enforcement or media so far.

I'm talking about hysteria on other avenues like Facebook. As Tommy Lee Jones says in the first "Men in Black" movie, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it." I think the fear and the instant sharing available on social media is feeding a generalized hysteria.

A couple of mothers I know claim this person in the van talked to their children who were outside at the time. The older ones herded the younger ones inside, or so they say. I'm not calling her children liars, and I couldn't get my head around her being one either. But I have to wonder. It doesn't say whether she called the police or what after that. I've heard a few other innuendoes about someone being approached, but no other police or media reports.

Someone called me to say buses were not running yesterday afternoon. I learned of the van going by Lincoln during the noon hour by email and text from the school district, so I (correctly as it turned out) assumed if there was a notice about buses, I would again get a text and/or email. So I asked on FB if anyone had heard anything official about it. I heard from Hartley and Primghar, and other places, "Well, I don't know, but my second cousin who's step kids go to Spencer said parents need to go individually pick up their child..."

Someone in Spencer said, "I was coming home from work and I saw kids walking along with backpacks, I assume walking home from school. So if they'd walk, why would then not be on buses?"

That's why I asked for something official. Because everyone is talking about it and stories start getting twisted.

Now a lady claims she saw an old white van with an older woman driver, but an old man passenger that slowed by Johnson school and stared at the children at recess. She called the dispatcher, was apparently treated rudely, and when the officer came by Johnson, he was going the wrong direction. She's getting hopped up because she thinks the police are incompetent. My thought was that perhaps he was trying to head off the van and get a look at the occupants before pulling them over, if he is going to.

I've been wondering the same thing about why our law enforcement is not releasing what details they have about the make and model and description of the van. Running errands in town, we, like others, saw dozens of white vans, though only a couple of the old boxy style of the earlier minivans.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 3:05 PM

All i read was he said "come here". I think a 70 year old man probably just needed help.

-- Posted by brian48 on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 10:03 PM

Classic fear campaign.

-- Posted by brian48 on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 10:24 PM

You know, nowadays it's risky for a person to even take a chance in helping a child or even talking to a child for fear of it looking like something else.

-- Posted by clayfarmer on Wed, Sep 12, 2012, at 10:32 PM

An old man needing help?

So he goes around from town to town all summer to ask for help? He must have some problem, all right, but I don't think he was asking for help.

-- Posted by spencer-gma on Thu, Sep 13, 2012, at 2:50 AM

so this old man likes to talk to kids or simply needs help yet flees the scene with adults show up? and he moves from town to town?! Yes I get the fact that he "hasn't actually done anything to harm anyone" YET. Is that what we are waiting for? as far as the call that someone was driving slow and watching the kids there are some parents along with myself that were driving around the schools yesterday to make sure our kids were safe. I'm not sure what the others were driving for vehicles. My son is scared to go to bed and scared to go out for recess which is why i was driving by his school, to relieve his fear as well as my own. And we are just supposed to think its all ok because some old man just wants random kids he doesn't know from towns he doesn't live in to go to his car because he "wants help or wants to talk to them?" No thanks, I'll continue to be the paranoid hypersensitive parent as there is less risk in being so.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Thu, Sep 13, 2012, at 1:35 PM

and it says all over that if we see what we believe may be the vehicle to call the police immediately and yet when people do call they are treated rudely? Do we really want to catch this man or not? to me it doesn't really seem so. just my opinion

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Thu, Sep 13, 2012, at 1:38 PM

I don't disagree, this mans actions seem to be suspicious, however at this point, what law has he broken? If the law enforcement did find him, and all they have is that he has driven by the schools and attempted to talk to children, what charges would you like them to bring against him?

-- Posted by Tara,Patrick on Fri, Sep 14, 2012, at 7:52 PM

Tara, Patrick, I'd like them to find him and ask him what his deal is at the very least. If he could explain it, perhaps we would find that some of the reports and sightings were blown waaaay out of proportion. Maybe he is a person who needs help, like he is delusional and thinks he's looking for his children or grandchildren, but he doesn't have any, or they were grown long ago, so that what he needs is an evaluation in the hospital, some medicine and someone looking after him. Then we can all know, at the very least, that he's not some pedophile on a rampage.

Also, most pedos don't operate this way. They don't have a preference for victims with an age range of 9 to 60s, they don't call attention to themselves, they don't pick up random strangers. They form relationships with children and other victims, they know they like a certain age or type, and they're skillful and crafty.

This is the worst dangerous criminal ever, as far as I can tell.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Fri, Sep 14, 2012, at 9:07 PM

Tara- I understand what you are saying I really do. But why then should they post that they want it called in if anyone sees this man only to meet people with rudeness when they do just that? I don't understand the purpose. Isn't there something against the law with solicitation? I personally wonder if a cop sitting him down saying look we have all these times you've been doing this, why have you done it, don't do it again, might even get to the bottom, might even help the man get the help he needs instead of allowing him to run free to continue to do what he wants. my son is now terrified. what am I to tell him? Don't worry this man is only a concern until he actually gets someone? I just don't find that as an adequent explanation. My fear is that this man will grow increasing desperate and start taking even bolder, maybe more dangerous efforts to achieve what he wants.

Amy- I very much agree!

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Fri, Sep 14, 2012, at 9:26 PM

As I said, I don't disagree with what is being said, I'm just saying that as of right now, this man has not committed a crime that we know of.

I am not sticking up for the guy by any means.

Yes, some forms of solicitation are illegal, however, if all he has said to "strangers" up to this point is "come here" that is a far cry from solicitation.

As someone has previously stated, I hope and pray that the best thing that comes from all this "hysteria" is that all of our children become more aware of their surroundings and stranger danger.

-- Posted by Tara,Patrick on Sat, Sep 15, 2012, at 7:33 PM


-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sat, Sep 15, 2012, at 10:17 PM

If any of you actually expect the Spencer PD to actually do thier job you are sadly mistaken. If it wont help the bottom line of making money for them then goodluck. They are to busy trying to catch people that wont hurt kids at schools.

-- Posted by buss22 on Sun, Sep 16, 2012, at 10:36 AM

Just because this man has not been caught yet does not mean the Spencer Police arent trying to find him. Many of the officers have children of their own and want to keep their children along with all the children in this community safe.

-- Posted by olmanhawk on Sun, Sep 16, 2012, at 6:43 PM

Trust me, local and county law enforcement are looking for this man actively. We were in an somewhat odd situation (looking for something near the ditch) in a vehicle that very vaguely matches the description (different make, model, year, and type of van) and the police saw a younger child and an older white man (who also didn't match the description) and stopped. I very much appreciate how thorough they are being, and the concern they had for the child in this situation.

-- Posted by notinia on Thu, Sep 20, 2012, at 11:28 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: