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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

July 17, 2002
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Neb. Incident Draws Police Probing Utah Kidnapping

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY - Police said today they were investigating a report that a distraught girl about the same age as Elizabeth Smart was spotted in a minivan in Nebraska, possibly being held against her will.

Lincoln, Neb., police issued a nationwide alert of a possible abduction last week after witnesses at a gas station convenience store there reported seeing a crying girl, between 12 and 14, with light hair.

But authorities said they have not connected the sighting to Smart, 14, who disappeared from her home June 5, nor have Salt Lake City police.

"We don't have a whole lot of information," Salt Lake City police Sgt. Fred Louis said today. "It's not clear what they have."

Witnesses said the girl stared at the store with tearful eyes until she was pulled over a seat and out of sight.

"They said they saw a pair of arms come from the back and pull her into the back, but nobody got a look at that person," said Lincoln police Sgt. Larry Barksdale.

Barksdale said police know who owns the van, bearing a Pennsylvania license plate, but don't know the vehicle's whereabouts. He said the driver and a male passenger took their time buying gas and cigarettes, and were not acting suspiciously.

Police have arrested the Smarts' former handyman, Richard Albert Ricci, 48, on theft charges and consider Ricci a possible suspect. He denies any role in Elizabeth's disappearance.

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