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W. BOUNTIFUL POLICE MAKE LITTLE HEADWAY IN APPARENT ABDUCTION

Police have no new leads in the reported abduction of two girls from the West Bountiful Elementary School yard Saturday evening. Police Chief Wayne Jeppson said the incident may not have been a kidnapping and police are asking for help from the public.

Three children playing in the school yard at 750 W. 400 North told police that a heavy-set man wearing dirty work clothes came into the school yard just before dark and picked up two young girls, carrying them through a hole in the fence on the northeast corner of the yard.The children, who did not know the two victims, told police the man stripped shirts off the two girls as he picked them up and the young girls were saying he was not their father and that they didn't have to go with him, according to police.

The three witnesses reported the incident to their grandmother, who called police, Jeppson said.

Jeppson said a search that eventually brought in over 100 law enforcement and other personnel was launched but no sign of the two girls or the man, last seen walking east through a field, was found.

Police did find the two shirts the children said were stripped off the two girls, Jeppson said.

"It's been 38 hours since the incident was reported and we've received no calls about any missing children," Jeppson said Monday morning. "If the incident happened as it was reported to us, it's possible the man who picked up the two girls was a family member, or a friend of the family.

"We don't quite understand why the man would take the shirts off, except there is a possibility he recognized them as not belonging to the two girls," the chief said.

"It's possible the shirts were left there from a soccer game earlier in the day, the girls put them on as the temperature cooled off during the evening, and the man recognized that and took them off," the chief said.

"There were enough red flags - the fact that we found the shirts, the man took them out through a hole in the fence - that it warranted an investigation," Jeppson said. "But at this point, we've had no reports of missing children to go along with the incident."

The chief said it could be that the girls, described as small, white females, were simply picked up by a family friend or that the episode is either a hoax or the product of what he described as the overly active imaginations of the three children who reported it.

More than 100 searchers from the West Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Bountiful, Centerville, and Woods Cross police departments, in addition to Davis County Sheriff's Office deputies and Utah Highway Patrol troopers were called in to help the search.

Canine units from North Salt Lake and Salt Lake City combed the area. A helicopter ambulance and South Davis Fire Department personnel also assisted in the search, Jeppson said.

Jeppson said no vehicle was seen in the area and a cordon was set up around the school yard. But other than the shirts, no evidence of an abduction was found.

"At this time, all leads have been checked and re-checked and a resolution to the situation has yet to be verified," the chief said. "However, no children have been reported missing since the situation was reported," Jeppson said.

The chief said it's possible the man involved may now be frightened of the response the incident stirred up and is reluctant to come forward because he fears trouble.

Anyone with information is asked to call 451-4150.