The FBI is asking for any information to help in their pursuit of a suspected serial “child predator” in Ohio who remains at large after he was caught on video, PEOPLE confirms.
The FBI believes the same man is responsible for an attempted child abduction in Elyria, Ohio, in February and a day-long abduction of a 6-year-old girl in Cleveland in May, bureau spokeswoman and special agent Vicki Anderson tells PEOPLE.
“We’re scared he’s going to strike again, and that’s why we really need the public’s help,” Anderson says.
In a chilling turn, she says the “very bold [and] very brazen” suspect appears to be a complete stranger to his victims. (Abductions committed by strangers are statistically rare.)
Investigators believe they’ve captured the suspect on video in the area of the Cleveland abduction and also captured footage of the vehicle he was driving at the time — a 2002 or 2003 Chevy Malibu with a light-colored front driver’s side panel. But as Anderson notes, it’s likely the suspect has since ditched the car.
It appears he “stalked” the neighborhood of the Cleveland abduction, Anderson says, as he was captured on video in the area multiple days beforehand. In that video footage, he is described as a bearded white man wearing a hoodie and a hat or visor.
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Though the abducted girl was unable to identify the route when she was driven away from her home — she was kept on the floorboard — she told investigators she was taken to a bedroom with a picture or wallpaper of brown moose. She said that at one point a man and woman entered the home, cooked food and left; and there were two dogs there, one white and one brown.
“He is taking children with the intent to harm them,” case agent Kelly Liberti said recently. “We know from the video surveillance we have collected that he is targeting these children.”
Anderson declined to specify the treatment of the 6-year-old girl during her May abduction in Cleveland but confirmed “she definitely came back harmed.”
Forensic evidence has linked the suspect to both the Cleveland and Elyria cases, according to the FBI, which is assisting the local agencies in the case.
‘He Is Targeting These Children’
Investigators have reviewed more than 300 leads, with no luck so far, Anderson says. This is in contrast to many previous advisories about wanted suspects, such as bank robbers, where successful tips come in within hours.
“Why don’t we have this guy?” Anderson says, adding, “We’ve got a child predator out there for goodness’ sake.”
So far, the only possible link between the Cleveland and Elyria cases is the use of social media. Anderson says: Some people in each home had social media profiles, which it’s possible the suspect was able to use to learn more about the families, including their daughters.
Anderson says the suspect allegedly abducted the Cleveland girl from the couch of her home in the early morning hours of May 21, even walking out the front door with her in his arms. Authorities say he allegedly entered through a side window.
Seventeen hours later, the girl was dropped off a few miles from her home.
In the earlier attempted abduction, early on Feb. 25, the suspect allegedly reached through a 10-year-old girl’s bedroom window and grabbed her leg, Anderson says.
“Thank goodness she fights and kicks and runs to her dad,” Anderson says.
She says it’s possible the suspect lives in Ohio or a surrounding state, though investigators know based on the length of the May abduction that he had access to a location relatively close to the girl’s home.
“Someone knows this guy,” Liberti said. “This is somebody’s neighbor. He is someone’s relative.”
Anyone with information about the suspect is urged to call 216-622-6842.
Tips can remain anonymous, and $20,000 is being offered in return for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.