The FBI led a massive search along the East Coast yesterday for a couple suspected of the seemingly random abductions of eight people in 10 days in a spree that stretched from Norfolk to Rhode Island and back to the Washington suburbs.
The alleged kidnapers' most recent victims, an accounting student from Prince George's County and two real estate agents from Baltimore, escaped Sunday night from a New Jersey motel, where they had been left bound and gagged by the suspects, a 33-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman.
The three Maryland victims were physically unharmed, as were all the earlier kidnap victims, who were all freed shortly after allegedly being abducted at gunpoint by the couple. In each case, according to the FBI, the kidnapers forced their victims to drive them to their next destination. All of the victims allegedly were robbed of the money they were carrying.
FBI agents in Baltimore yesterday pronounced themselves baffled by the kidnapings, which have no apparent motive other than transportation. "It's a mystery to us," said an FBI spokesman.
The male suspect was identified yesterday by the FBI as Harry Robert Creta, also known as Victor Peck and Vic Raza. Creta is wanted in Norfolk on charges of distribution of illegal drugs, according to the FBI. His last known address is in Virginia Beach. He wears two gold chains around his neck and allegedly is armed with an automatic pistol and a derringer. He has vowed not to be taken alive, the FBI said.
Creta's companion was identified as Gail Elizabeth Baker, a slender, black-haired, green-eyed woman who carries a derringer in her purse, according to the FBI. Baker's last known address is also in Virginia Beach.
At a press conference yesterday, FBI spokesmen outlined a chronology of kidnapings that began Nov. 18 in Norfolk, when Creta and Baker allegedly abducted Wistor H. Trent at gunpoint and forced him to drive to Richmond. When they stopped at a Richmond shopping mall, the spokesmen said, Trent was able to escape with his car.
But the kidnapers, according to the FBI, were undaunted. They allegedly abducted two more people from the mall -- James D. Hill and Julia A. Grizzard -- and forced them to drive to Providence, R.I. Hill and Grizzard were released at 10 a.m. the next day, Nov. 19.
The FBI charged Creta and Baker on Nov. 19 with the three alleged Virginia abductions. Six days later a man and woman fitting the descriptions of Creta and Baker allegedly kidnaped a man identified by the FBI as H. Shikodi from the Hertz rental car area at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. Shikodi was allegedly forced to drive to Bordentown, N.J., where he was released.
The same day the kidnapers allegedly abducted Ann Loeffler from Voorhees Township, N.J., and forced her to drive them to Greenbelt, Md., where she was released. Creta and Baker then allegedly abducted Clarence E. Knight III from outside the Beltway Plaza Shopping Center in Greenbelt, where Knight works at the Family Fish restaurant.
The alleged kidnapers and their latest victim spent Wednesday and Thursday at the Holiday Inn in Glen Burnie, according to the FBI. They spent Friday night in Knight's 1980 Datsun 310, parked in a rest area along a Maryland highway, the FBI spokesmen said. On Saturday, the pair allegedly forced Knight to go with them to a Merrill Lynch Realty-Chris Coile office on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore. The couple allegedly told the real estate agents they wanted to buy a home in the $100,000 to $150,000 range.
Real estate agents Diane Dandy and Herbert Dowling Jr. took Creta, Baker and Knight to look at houses in Baltimore and Harford counties, according to the FBI. The group traveled in Dandy's 1977 maroon Chevrolet Impala. At some point during the house hunting, Creta allegedly pointed a gun at Dandy and Dowling and forced them to drive to the Monticello Motel in Bellmawr, N.J., just outside Philadelphia. The alleged kidnapers and their three victims -- Dandy, Dowling and Knight -- spent Saturday night at the motel.
On Sunday the kidnapers allegedly gagged and tied up Dandy, Dowling and Knight and left the motel in Dandy's Chevrolet. They were last seen heading north on the New Jersey Turnpike at about 8 p.m. Sunday. The victims freed themselves and telephoned local police around 10 p.m. Sunday.
Creta and Baker were charged yesterday with the three Maryland kidnapings.
The father of 26-year-old Herbert Dowling Jr. was at his son's house in Reisterstown yesterday. He said he and his wife had spent most of the weekend by the telephone. "What else can you do? I felt like going out myself and looking. But the U.S. is a pretty big place. I didn't know where to start."
Clarence Knight III, 23, was so calm after his five-day ordeal that he returned yesterday to classes at Bowie State College, where he is a senior accounting student. "He can take care of himself," his father said. "He's pretty cool. He's pretty smart. He sort of kept it together."
Clarence Knight's cool was praised yesterday by Bill Barrett, the president of Merrill Lynch Realty-Chris Coile, who was told the kidnaping tale by his two agents, Dowling and Dandy. "Clarence Knight did a real service," Barrett said. "Apparently he had opportunities in our office to run away. Our agents feel that he didn't because he was worried about the safety of the other agents in the office ."
Barrett said Knight tried to calm the two real estate agents. "He kept telling them, 'Hey, don't get excited. Everything's going to be okay. I've been in this thing since Wednesday, and if I can stand it, you can,' " Barrett said.
While the real estate agency made plans to celebrate Dandy and Dowling's return with a party, the FBI searched from Connecticut to South Carolina for their alleged abductors.
"It's a wild tale," said FBI special agent Roger Kuhleman. "I just hope we've heard the end of it."