**Public disclaimer: these decisions I made were based solely on allegations I had seen reported on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and are written as to express the opinions of myself and my brother, not Royse City or anyone else associated with the premises of it. I feel as though my decisions were what were right, in case anything were to happen. This is just my truth, and my truth only. Things may be different to others. Enjoy.**
You never think that it will happen to your town. Someone says “child predator” and everyone thinks movies and documentaries, never real life situations involving you or anyone you know. This past week, I felt as if I was living in a Criminal Minds episode. Where’s Spencer Reid when you really need him?
Royse City, Texas is an extremely small town where the most criminal thing to ever happen was a murder-suicide a while back. We aren’t very crime driven, but since we are so small, it is easy to know a newcomer when they appear. This past week, a strange vehicle was spotted and instantly talked about in a public group on Facebook after he was found in a kid’s park trying to lure children to his vehicle with stuffed animals he had lined in the inside of his car.
My brother and I are apart of this Facebook group and instantly took notice of it. We were freaked out that it would, first of all, happen in our town, and second of all happen at all. The man was seen at our local Splash Pad water park, where dozens of kids play at everyday. It’s creepy. It sends shivers down my spine.
(The original posts we saw)
A few days after this initial post was made, we had some running around to do. My brother, our friend Alexa, and I were caught in some traffic on the road that leads right by the Splash Pad. He had just made a remark about how relaxing the water looked trickling down on all of the kid’s backs. I look up and see the truck sitting there in the back of the parking lot almost instantly.
“Oh my gosh…” I gasp. “That’s that truck, Andrew. That creep who lures kids with stuffed animals, that’s his truck is it not?”
Andrew and Alexa proceed to squint to the distant Splash Pad. Neither of them can tell at this point, and traffic has us bumper-to-bumper at about 2 miles an hour. In the midst of their confusion and the slow traffic, I find the time to pull up the Facebook post and compare trucks. By the time I do, we have made it to the entrance, and Andrew and Alexa gasp in unison. Without hesitation, he slams on the breaks and whips in to the parking lot.
Sure enough, it is him. The truck. The license plate. He’s there, and in the flesh, just parked at the back of the parking lot. My heart starts racing and I feel sick. Sick in a way you never, ever want to feel.
He isn’t alone, however. There is a woman parked next to him, and she is sitting with him in his car.
“Taylore..” Andrew says to me. And before he can even tell me to get out my phone, my camera app is pulled up.
(Picture taken by me.)
The woman doesn’t stay long. They talk for a while before she gets out of his truck, and pops her trunk open. And then he climbs out of his truck. And I go numb with fright. Andrew yells at me to take pictures, to take videos of him, but all I can do is just sit and watch him.
He is scary. He walks with a limp. The man opens his tailgate and removes a white trash bag filled with stuffed animals. He wearily walks to the lady’s car and stuffs the bag into her trunk, and goes to walk away, holding on to his back as he does. Before she closes it, he turns and snatches a teddy bear that is sticking out of the top of the bag and holds it like a child missing his mother. He grins. The man grins.
The woman drives away and the man climbs back into his truck.
I want to be sick.
(Picture taken by me.)
It is a Tuesday afternoon in June in Texas, AKA it is blazing hot outside. The Splash Pad is swarming with children of all ages and their exhausted parents. That is the first thing I take note of upon my examination of the park itself. I’m too scared to look over at the red truck that sits to my left again.
The second thing that catches my attention is the children running around on their own in the parking lot. They are in their swimsuits. Some of them old. Some of them as young as diaper ages. They are no adults within at least 20 yards from them. They keep running in between cars and disappearing from my sight, forcing my heart into my stomach every time that they do. I find the courage to look at the man again and I look just in time to watch as he is lowering his passenger seat down to watch the children run around.
“He’s watching them. Oh my god, he’s watching them.” Andrew says over and over again with his own choice of swears each time inserted wherever he likes.
I’m rocking back and forth with my head between my knees, trying to calm myself down enough to make an executive decision. “I know. I know. Just stop telling me that, okay? What should we do?”
“I don’t know, take a baseball bat to his car?”
We all know Andrew is smarter than that.
I sit up and breathe. “Like the post said, everyone has called the police hundreds of times. If we call, they will just come and tell us that he isn’t doing anything wrong by just sitting here. But he’s clearly watching them and enjoying his time by doing so.”
“If he tries to approach one of these kids, you best bet I’m not staying in this car for one second.” Alexa then says.
We sit in silence for the next few minutes, watching him and watching as the kids run around. I imagine if I were a parent sitting on one of the benches, watching their kid playing, not having a single clue that there was a child perpetrator just yards away from me, enjoying watching and seeing my child in their bathing suit. Thinking of the innocence in their minds absolutely killed me.
“If I were one of those parents I would want to know. I would want someone to tell me.” I say. “None of them have any idea that he is just sitting there.”
“So what should we do?”
I unbuckle my seatbelt. “We have to go tell them. We can’t just have them sit there not knowing.”
“Okay, but you’re doing all of the talking, Miss I Have a Solution for Everything.” Andrew says, his eye still on the man.
Within seconds, the three of us are out of the car and walking towards the Splash Pad. I feel his eyes burning on us as we do and I wonder if he knows that we know. We can’t decide who to start talking to, or how to start. I decide to pull up the Facebook post to make my life a lot easier., I approach a friendly looking woman sitting on one of the benches.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you have children playing here right now?”
She looks up at me and smiles. “Yes, I do.”
I sit down next to her and explain the Facebook post and the suspicions on the man in the red truck sitting in the back of the parking lot as we speak. She gasps and looks for her child. When she finds her, she thanks me dearly and explains that she is actually the wife of the high school principal and that she comes here with her kids a lot. She says thank you about five more times and we walk to the next family.
The sickening feeling started to go away with more people I reached out to. I talked to at least ten parents that day, each of them so relieved to know about it. Some of them left the park immediately. Here is the scariest part of it all:
None of them knew.
I no longer felt responsible for anything there at the park that day. If I had logged onto Facebook that night and seen a child had been abducted, I could never live with myself.
As we are walking to our car, the man is watching us this time instead of the prancing little kids. I feel all of the hairs on my skin stand up and do a shake. Andrew can’t unlock the car fast enough it seems.
The man drives off, and before I know it, Andrew is following him. I’m shouting at him to stop, but he says he wants to make sure he never goes back to that park ever again. He follows him at a distance, but close enough to make sure he doesn’t decide to turn around and go back just because we are gone. The man goes to Denny’s and parks there.
He hasn’t returned to the Splash Pad since.
This whole situation could have turned out extremely different in multiple ways. I don’t encourage anyone to ever approach someone you think could be a child predator, or any predator at all for that matter.
On the other hand, if you feel in your gut that you need to do something about a situation that could possibly turn out badly, listen to what that feeling says. You feel it for a reason.
No offense to Andrew or Alexa, but I definitely would have preferred to work on this case with Spencer Reid instead.
Call me Detective Tay, I guess!
Until next time,