Elated Parents Express Sorrow for Alleged Kidnapper

Elated Parents Express Sorrow for Alleged Kidnapper

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MAPLETON, Utah (AP) -- While the parents of a 5-year-old Mapleton boy who was kidnapped last Thursday were relieved with their son's safe return, they also expressed sorrow for the alleged abductor.

"I feel so bad for him," Amy Bladh said Sunday. "He's ruined his life."

Robert Allen Kartchner was arrested early Friday for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted aggravated murder, police said. Kartchner is suspected in the kidnapping of 5-year-old Benjamin Bladh.

The Bladhs said they had never seen Kartchner before.

They said their son is doing fine physically. Investigators also expressed relief that the boy showed no signs of sexual assault.

"He's really fine," Amy Bladh said. "It could be horrible, but he's fine as far as that goes."

Authorities said they was kidnapped while riding his scooter home from school Thursday afternoon.

He was driven 15 miles to the Diamond Fork area of Spanish Fork Canyon, where the abductor slowly cut the boy's arm, neck and thigh. Investigators said the assailant choked the boy with the remains of a T-shirt and then threw him into the bushes and drove off.

A father and son who had been installing a fence in the area spotted the boy about 6:45 p.m. The child had managed to free his feet, but his hands were still bound with electrical tape. Philip and Eric Gardner of Enterprise took the boy to a nearby cabin and called 911.

Kartchner was arrested when he drove through the Diamond Fork area about 12:45 a.m. Friday. Two sheriff's deputies guarding the crime scene stopped Kartchner because his pickup appeared to match the description the boy had given to investigators.

Kartchner admitted to the kidnapping after an hour of questioning, Utah County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.

The Bladhs declined Sunday to comment about Thursday's events, instead focusing on their heroic son.

"He's a hero," Amy Bladh said. "These (kinds of) stories don't end like this. He's a great kid. He's the hero. He did what he was supposed to do."

The collaborative prayers of friends, family and neighbors saved the boy's life, said Dan and Amy Bladh.

"I truly believe he had angels with him supporting him and making him feel better," said Dan Bladh, who owns a carpet store in Springville. "It's his faith. He prayed for help."

The boy, the second youngest of five siblings, did not attend school Friday and his parents have not determined when he will return.

In the meantime, it feels like heaven in the Bladh home, Amy Bladh said.

"It's a party at our house," Amy Bladh said. "It's a celebration. It's a good ending. It's a happy story, but it started out ... as a terrible, terrible thing."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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