Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stranger Danger

It can be difficult as a parent to foster childhood optimism in your offspring while also instilling a healthy level of wariness concerning those that may wish to do them harm. Some might show their child a video or take them to a class; but these tactics are for parents that are simply phoning it in. Missouri resident Elizabeth Hupp wasn’t about to outsource the safety of her 6 year-old son. So, along with the boy’s grandmother and aunt, she hatched a scheme to make sure that her son didn’t become a statistic.
First, they recruited the assistance of the aunt’s 23 year-old coworker Nathan Firoved who agreed to kidnap and terrorize his colleague’s nephew. As the young man exited the school bus one day, Nathan lured him into his pickup. Once inside the vehicle, he bound the young man’s hands and feet with plastic bags, threatened him with a gun, and informed him that he would “never see his mommy again” and would be “nailed to the wall of a shed.” He then covered the boy’s face with a jacket and drove the traumatized child to his mother’s basement.

Once there, and still unable to see, his pants were removed by his aunt who informed him that he would then be sold into sexual slavery. After what is believed to be several hours, the blindfold was removed and the young man was taken upstairs where his family revealed the ruse and “lectured him about stranger danger.” The child subsequently revealed the events to school officials who reported the matter to law enforcement. The mother has been charged with felony kidnapping and abuse of a child. The grandmother, aunt, and aunt’s co-worker have been charged with felonious restraint. The family members involved told investigators “their primary intent was to educate the victim and felt they did nothing wrong.”
Clockwise from top left: Mom, Nathan, Aunt Rose, Grandma

There were two crucial moments of human interaction that occurred in this case. The first was the moment that the mother shared her idea with the boy’s grandmother and aunt. Was there any discussion? Did the mother invite feedback? Should we give these two other women the benefit of the doubt and assume that they talked the boy’s mother out of a worse idea? It is plausible that such a terrible idea can grow and fester within the confines of a solitary, troubled mind but the fact that it survived a family conference should give all of us pause. Perhaps the exchange proceeded this way:

Mom, you know how you, me, and Aunt Rose were talking about how junior was too nice to people….


Well, I was thinking we could get that registered sex offender down the street to take him camping over the holiday weekend.

Honey, I think that your heart is in the right place but camping seems a little extreme. Why don’t we hire some random dude to kidnap him while brandishing a firearm?

You’re right mom. I was just getting carried away. Thanks for being my voice of reason.

The second crucial moment of interaction was when the aunt approached Mr. Firoved at work and asked if he could spare an afternoon to abduct her nephew. Was he paid for this? Did he feel obligated because she had covered one of his shifts the week before? When did it become awkward to decline the opportunity to kidnap a minor? I wonder if he was even the first person the aunt approached about this. Can you imagine some guy in the break room telling Rose, “that’s not really my cup of tea but why don’t you ask Nathan; his Redbox code didn’t work and he is free tonight?”

Regardless of how you feel about Missouri’s Amateur Scared Straight program, you have to admire the participants’ unshakeable faith in the legitimacy of their actions. Even after being apprehended they are still willing to project the “I don’t know what all the fuss is about” attitude to the media. I shudder to think that these people are registered voters.

I hope this young man is adopted by a kind family who encourage and nurture him. And wouldn’t it be a bitter irony when he finally finds happiness in the arms of the very people his family tried to warn him about: strangers.

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