Suspects Sought in Reported Abduction

A PNC Bank branch in St. Mary's County was closed after the manager said she was kidnapped and forced to remove cash for her abductors.
A PNC Bank branch in St. Mary's County was closed after the manager said she was kidnapped and forced to remove cash for her abductors. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
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By Jenna Johnson and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 25, 2008

The call came in at 7:53 a.m.: Gunmen had kidnapped a St. Mary's County bank manager and her children and were forcing her to remove cash from the bank while they held her toddler son hostage outside, the caller told police.

The call touched off a massive law enforcement search across Southern Maryland. As a state police helicopter whirred overhead, officers and sheriff's deputies shut down a major road out of St. Mary's. Schools there and in part of neighboring Calvert County canceled afternoon activities or took other precautions.

The bank manager and her children, the 18-month-old boy and 5-year-old daughter, were unharmed. The manhunt ended with no arrests about 1 p.m., five hours after a bank employee called 911 and recounted what the manager had told her.

Investigators were questioning the 27-year-old manager, LaToya Booth, late yesterday. St. Mary's Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron said Booth was "visibly shaken" and appeared to have been through an "extraordinary event."

"I can't even imagine the stress, especially since it involved her children," Cameron said.

Authorities said that they were examining all possibilities, including that Booth knew the abductors, and that they wanted to talk with her daughter.

"I just have this gut feeling that there's more to this than is being told," Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans said.

Booth's family declined to comment yesterday. Spokesmen for the FBI, which is also investigating, and the bank also declined to comment.

Booth told police that the kidnappers, armed with rifles or shotguns, forced her to drive with her children from her home in Lusby more than 12 miles to a PNC Bank branch in the 22600 block of Three Notch Road in California.

She said the kidnappers waited in her blue Chevrolet Tahoe with her son while she and her daughter went inside. Booth took an undisclosed amount of cash from the bank, which had not opened, and told an employee about the abduction. Booth left her daughter with the employee and returned to the car.

"Certainly, when you display a long gun, people do what you ask," said Cindy Allen, a spokeswoman for the St. Mary's Sheriff's Office. "She went into the bank. She did what they asked."

Booth told police the abductors let her and her son out of the car at Green Holly Elementary School in nearby Lexington Park about 8 a.m. A school employee called police, and officers "saturated the area" looking for the suspects, Cameron said.

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