Hawthorne parents volunteered Wednesday to pick up students from school and patrol the streets in the morning after an 8-year-old girl was abducted and raped Tuesday two blocks from Cimarron Avenue Elementary School.
At a gathering in the school auditorium, parents also angrily criticized school administrators for not telling them about the girl who was abducted as she walked to school. The molester might have been the same man in an attack at a nearby school, police said.
The parents complained that they had received a letter saying only that a child molester was in the area. The letter described the man as an African American between 28 and 40 years old with a thin mustache and a goatee.
It was not mentioned that a third grader was only two blocks from the school when a gray van pulled up next to her at 115th Street and Tarron Avenue and the driver grabbed her.
Hawthorne police said the suspect drove to an unknown location, where he parked and sexually assaulted the girl. An hour later, he dropped the girl off in front of the school.
“Yesterday as a parent I was let down and I am mad today,” said Wendy Bayne, vice president of the school’s Parent and Teacher Assn.
“Why did we not know this had happened?” asked Anita Brazier, who took time off from her job to make sure that her daughter made it safely to kindergarten. “Everyone is really shocked because things like this don’t happen around here.”
Kathi Rula, an advisor at the elementary school, said school administrators did not think it was necessary to explain in the letter exactly what had happened. “We thought it would upset the parents and children,” she said.
This is not the first time that a girl has been abducted while on her way to an area school. A 10-year-old girl was abducted March 6 as she walked to Century Park Elementary School near Inglewood. Again, the suspect was an African American man with a mustache and goatee, driving a gray van. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the Century Park case.
Someone was seen lurking in a van last fall around Purche Avenue Elementary School in Gardena, said Principal Matilda Rucker. Purche Avenue Elementary is about two miles from Cimarron Avenue Elementary.
Hawthorne Police Lt. Arvid Krueger, commander of the detective bureau, was at the elementary school Wednesday to update parents.
Detectives interviewing the 8-year-old on Tuesday got a good description of the man. Police hope to have a composite sketch by today.
Mildred Kerr, principal of Cimarron Avenue Elementary School, explained to parents that they were not told of the incident because police were still investigating the case on Tuesday when many of them arrived to pick up their children.
About 70% of parents drop off or pick up their children every day at school, said Monica Ivey, a parent representative in the school.
Ivey’s son is in the same third-grade class as the girl who was abducted. She said her son was so traumatized by the incident that he stayed home from school. “He’s afraid they’ll come into the school and grab him,” she said.
Francine Gray, an educational psychologist, met twice with students in the auditorium Wednesday. Then she visited classrooms and counseled students.