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July 18: Are These Two Suspect Sketches The Same? One (Left) Tried to Kidnap Two Long Beach Teens in March; the Other (Right) Allegedly Kidnapped, Raped & Murdered Five Year Old Samantha Runnion This Week

ELK Kidnap Suspect Lakewood/Willow
Suspect in March, 2002 Long Beach attempted kidnappings
Stanton kidnap/murder suspect
Suspect in July, 2002 Stanton kidnapping, rape, murder of Samantha Runnion

(July 18, 2002, posted at 7:15 p.m.) -- Are these two suspects the same?

In March, 2002, the Long Beach Police Dept. released, and posted, the sketch on the left of a suspect allegedly involved in two separate attempted kidnappings of teenage girls (age 13 and 17) in the area of Lakewood Blvd. and Willow St. Police say he tried to pull the girls into a white van parked nearby. His intended victims managed to fight him off and escape.

Roughly four months later, the Orange County Sheriff's Dept. released the sketch on the right of a suspect in the kidnapping, rape and murder of five year old Samantha Runnion, abducted from a neighborhood in Stanton, CA, less than ten miles east on Willow St. (which becomes Katella Ave. in Orange County) from the site of the Long Beach attempted kidnappings.

A Long Beach parent saw's posted sketch of the suspected Long Beach kidnapper in March. Late last night, she contacted us and asked, "Are the two suspects the same?"

In March, posted the Long Beach Police Dept. suspect sketch concerning two attempted kidnappings of teenage girls (age 13 and 17) in separate incidents in the area south of the 405 freeeway near LB Airport. LB police said that on March 6, 2002, a 13-year-old LB girl was riding her bicycle in the early evening near Lakewood Blvd. & Willow St. when a male attacker grabbed her from behind and pulled her toward a white van parked near by. She resisted, escaped and ran. On March 10, 2002, again in the early evening, a 17-year-old LB girl was jogging in the same area when a male attacker grabbed her from behind and pulled her toward a white van parked near by. She also resisted and escaped.

At the time, LBPD said its investigators "believe these two incidents might be related." LB police described the suspect as a light complected 20-25 year-old male Hispanic, 5-06 to 5-09, short dark hair, brown eyes, medium build, clean shaven.

At a news conference yesterday, Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona described the killer as 25-40 years old and Hispanic with black hair and a mustache, but has likely changed his appearance.

This morning, we contacted the Orange County Sheriff's Dept. public information office which referred us to the OC Sheriff's phone number for receiving public information about this crime. We called the number, conveyed the information about the March LB attempted kidnappings and offered to email the OC Sheriff's Dept. the sketch released in March by LBPD that you've seen above. The Sheriff's intake phone person listened and took our phone number.

We also contacted the LB Police Department and asked a public information officer if the two suspects might be the same. The officer recalled the March, 2002 attempted kidnappings. We emailed a link displaying the two sketches side by side. LBPD noted and processed the information.

Late this afternoon, LBPD public information officer Jana Blair told that the LBPD and the OC Sheriff's Dept. had been in contact shortly after the Stanton kidnapping/murder and the Sheriff's Dept. was aware of the LB attempted kidnappings. She also indicated that the OC Sheriff's Dept. had spoken with LBPD today on the matter (apparently prompted by our phone call).

"LBPD is glad to do whatever we can to assist on this," officer Blair said.

Caveat: As of this posting, neither agency has indicated that there is or is not any link between the March LB attempted kidnappings and the Stanton kidnapping/murder.

This story is posted as breaking news and will be updated as developments warrant.

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