Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Police on Wednesday said the transient couple who allegedly took a woman's infant from a downtown shopping mall Tuesday night were trying to teach the mother a lesson.
The alleged kidnappers and the mother were part of a group of seven homeless people who socialized with each other, said Salt Lake City Police Lt. Jim Jensen.
The child wasn't returned Wednesday, police said, as members of the homeless group said the alleged kidnappers had intended.
Police issued a "Rachael Alert" at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to find the child.
The group discussed how the mother, 20-year-old Jennifer Tripplett, wasn't caring for the child properly, Jensen said.
When Tripplett left the ZCMI Mall food court around 6 p.m. Tuesday for a cigarette, she left her son, Nicholas, 21/2 months, with the group. Upon return, her son, baby carriage and diaper bag were gone, Jensen said.
Jensen said police delayed using the "Rachael alert" because "it wasn't a stranger abduction. These are people who know each other, socialize with each other."
Tripplett, who arrived at the police station during the news conference, choked up when talking about her son. "If they're watching, they need to bring my baby home. Don't hurt my baby."
Tripplett said she lives in a family shelter because she lost her job. Her son suffers respiratory problems, she said, but she's caring for him as best she can.
The suspected kidnappers are Cassandra Gonzales, 19, described as 5 feet tall with dark hair worn in a mohawk. The other suspect is Harold "Danny" Rutledge, 32, and about 5 feet 6 inches tall, with red hair worn long in back.
The suspects have no known address, but police said the two reportedly frequent a coffee shop on the city's south side, as well as a transient camp in City Creek Canyon. Police searched homeless shelters, the streets and campsites Tuesday night, but found no trace of the child or the couple.
Police said they don't believe the couple are a flight risk because they allegedly don't have much money or a car.
Rutledge was believed to have family or other connections in Arkansas.
Tripplett said Gonzales "wanted a child. Since she can't carry one, she wanted mine. She was a friend to me. She was always there for me when I needed someone to talk to."
Tripplett said Gonzales and Rutledge were accompanied in the mall by another female transient who goes by the name "R.C." and is Gonzales's mother.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)