By Ed Brock
Mikayla Betts said a man who may have been trying to abduct her called out to her in "a voice like Papa's voice."
But the man was a stranger, so 8-year-old Betts told him no, she didn't need a ride when he approached her near her house in Jonesboro on Thursday.
"It made me really frightened and scared," Betts said.
Now Jonesboro police have entered the incident on a statewide law enforcement computer network and are on patrol looking for the man who scared Betts so badly. Meanwhile, school officials are planning to inform their principals about the incident.
Around 2:45 p.m. Thursday Betts was walking home from Lee Street Elementary School as usual. When she was crossing into her driveway the man, described only as a white male in an older model dark blue or black GMC pickup truck with a silver tailgate and in good condition, called out to her and asked if she needed a ride.
What really concerned Mikayla and her mother Karen Betts is what the man did after Mikayla told him no and tried to walk away.
"He was, like, driving up trying to get close to me and to come and get me," Mikayla said.
So she screamed and began running toward her house. Karen Betts heard her daughter and came outside in time to see the truck still driving slowly in front of the house.
"When she came up on the porch he sped up," Betts said. "Whatever this person was up to it was no good."
Jonesboro Police Sgt. Wayne Woods said the officer who responded to the call searched for the truck but couldn't find it. Since the incident the officer has been patrolling around schools in the city to see if the man is still around.
"He's been hitting them pretty hard," Woods said.
Officers are posted at the five schools inside the city and a student resource officer is always at Jonesboro Middle School, Woods said. And Woods plans to enter the incident on the MetroTech computer network through which they share information with agencies in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
"I'll see if anybody has had a similar incident with that type of vehicle," Woods said.
The administrators at Lee Street Elementary plan to issue a letter on general safety tips to its students, Clayton County Public Schools spokesman Charles White said, and counselors are willing to talk to Mikayla and her parents. Also, the principals at other schools will be made aware of the incident and may be given descriptions of the man in the truck, but so far there are no plans to send a letter to parents about this particular occurrence.
"We don't want to alarm people," White said.
They will work with police to make sure that the schools respond appropriately, White said, and each principal will also make his or her own decision about how to handle the dispersal of information.
Karen Betts and her husband Hendry Betts said they think police and the school system need to inform other parents about this incident.
Hendry Betts said he doesn't want officials to "sweep this thing under the carpet."
"I don't want to interfere with a police investigation but by God the parents should know," said Hendry Betts. "When it's someone else's daughter, it bothers me. When it's my daughter, it makes me mad."
Woods said Mikayla did exactly what she was supposed to do. She refused to talk to a stranger and when the incident made her scared she ran home. Parents should be sure to teach their children to do the same thing, he said.
"And children now should have adults or older siblings walk with them and never be alone," Woods said.
Mikayla's routine has definitely changed because of her encounter with the possible abductor.
"I pick her up each day now," Karen Betts said. "I don't care if she's 45 years old, she will never walk (home) again."
Woods said anybody with information on the man in the truck, can call Jonesboro police at (770) 478-7407 or leave a tip at the city's Web site at www.jonesboroga.com.