Word of kidnapping attempts sweep Facebook, arrests quickly follow

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by Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

wwltv.com

Posted on August 30, 2010 at 6:32 PM

SLIDELL, La. – A 17-year-old who was out of jail while facing armed robbery charges and a 16-year-old friend were arrested last week on kidnapping charges after deputies received several reports of a duo that was trying to lure younger children into a van.

The word of the attempted crimes got fueled by Facebook, according to St. Tammany spokesman George Bonnett, who said the sheriff’s office rushed to get word of the arrests out to stop the speeding Facebook network. 

According to detectives, the first calls from concerned parents came Wednesday evening.

"The investigators didn't get assigned the case until Thursday morning," Captain George Bonnett of the St. Tammany Sheriff's Department said. "By Thursday evening, they had identified these two individuals."  

Detectives arrested 17-year old Wylie VanScoter and a 16-year old accomplice. 

VanScoter was out of jail on bond, accused of armed robbery.  VanScoter is accused of robbing a Slidell gas station at the corner of Brownswitch Road and Robert Road. 

Both VanScoter and the juvenile are charged with two counts of attempted kidnapping. 

Word of mouth began spreading the story about attempted abductions around the Slidell area beginning Wednesday.  The news then exploded on the Internet. 

"If Facebook was a fire, the fire department would be in trouble," Chris Doran, a Slidell parent of two said Monday. 

"I found out through Facebook," Doran added. "With a couple of messages sent to me, and with technology today, Blackberries, everybody's carrying them, you can upload stuff immediately.  

In an effort to stop the rumor mill, the St. Tammany Sheriff's Department sent out a press release announcing the arrests Friday evening. 

Facebook now plays a role in many cases. 

"I wouldn't say it necessarily effects the speed of the investigation," Captain Bonnett said, "it effects how we need to communicate with the public and how we need to assure them of what we're doing to solve the case." 

Captain Bonnett said, the suspects claim they were not going to harm the children, but he added, the attempted kidnapping charges are appropriate. 

VanScoter remained in the St. Tammany Parish Jail Monday night. 

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