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Mom: Unidentified woman steals car occupied by three Dickinson children

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson's Lacey Cox got the scare of a lifetime around noon this past Saturday. While she was inside Dickinson's Prairie Hills Mall, her three children were being driven around the parking lot by an unidentified female whom t...

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson's Lacey Cox got the scare of a lifetime around noon this past Saturday. While she was inside Dickinson's Prairie Hills Mall, her three children were being driven around the parking lot by an unidentified female whom they had never seen before.

Cox said she and her grandmother Patricia Stultz had taken Cox's children, ages 3, 4 and 6, to the mall in Stultz's vehicle.

"I was in another part of the store and she was supposed to be with them," Cox said. "She left for a couple of minutes and left them parked right out in front of Kmart, not even in a parking spot, just right out in front. She ran out to the outdoor garden center and when she ran back out, the car was gone."

Cox said Stultz found the car parked about 12-13 parking spaces east of the east Kmart entrance. All three children were still in the vehicle and unharmed.

"It was in the same general area when she parked it, but it was in between two bigger vehicles," Cox said. "She left everything basically where she found it."

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There were no witnesses, other than the three children inside the vehicle, but Cox's oldest son was able to describe what the woman looked like.

"He told me she was a little taller than me, so I'm guessing about 5'4" to 5'6" and she was very skinny," Cox said. "He said she was white, but she just looked very tan."

Cox said he went on to say she had long, straight, black hair that reached the middle of her back. He said she had freckles or markings on her face. She was wearing a plain, black T-shirt and sky blue jeans with tennis shoes.

"He said she looked a little bit younger than me and I'm 27, so I'm guessing she was in her early 20s," Cox said. "I don't think she was a teenager. He said she was a grownup."

Cox added her son said the woman appeared to be older than his uncle, who is 20, but younger than Cox and her husband.

While her two younger children didn't say anything about what took place inside the vehicle, all three children agreed she looked the way the oldest child described her.

Cox's oldest son said after Stultz exited her vehicle, he noticed a dark grey vehicle that looked like a van or an SUV drive up next to Stultz's vehicle. He said the dark-haired woman got out of this vehicle.

"My son said there was a man with her, but the man did not get into the car," Cox said. "He stayed in his own vehicle and he wasn't sure if the man followed or not, he was just too scared to look."

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Unfortunately, the 6-year-old was unable to get a good look at the man driving the other vehicle.

"He only saw him for a split second because he didn't really know what was going on because she hadn't actually gotten into the car yet," Cox said. "He said he didn't recognize either one of them at all."

All the boy could remember was he "didn't look old," and he appeared to have a bigger build, although he never actually got out of his vehicle.

Cox said her 6-year-old son was also able to explain in detail what happened when the strange woman got into the car that he and his younger brother and sister were in.

"She came up to the car and opened the door and said 'Your mother should never leave you alone' and she shut the door and put the car in gear and backed up," Cox said. "My son said it had seemed like she had driven around a few other parking spots before going back, but he said he wasn't sure because he was just too scared," Cox said.

Thankfully, Cox's son said the woman did not behave violently, and none of the children were hurt.

"He said they were never touched or anything and that she was just really quiet," Cox said. "She didn't show any aggression or anything, but she did look like she was upset."

Cox said her son thought the woman had a sad look on her face and she spoke in a calm and quiet voice.

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"She didn't say anything else to them until she parked and then she turned around and looked at them and said 'Oh you poor babies, do you want anything to drink or eat?' and none of my kids answered her. They were too scared."

Cox said that was the last thing she said to the children before exiting the vehicle.

"When they wouldn't answer she just got out of the car and shut the door and she left," Cox said. "He wasn't sure if she got into the vehicle that she came out of ... she walked away from the car, towards the truck, and then she just continued walking that way."

Cox's oldest son told her he thought about getting out of the car, but didn't want to leave his two younger siblings. He also was unsure of where the lady had taken them.

"He was afraid to get out of the car and get lost even more," Cox said. "My daughter was crying. They didn't know what to do. They were just hoping that we'd find them."

Meanwhile, Stultz was still across the parking lot outside Kmart. She was clueless as to the events which had taken place just a few yards away from her.

"She said she went inside the gates where the plants were, and said when she first went in, she poked her head up and saw they were still there," Cox said. "She said she was in the garden center for probably three minutes."

Cox said here grandmother didn't see the woman get into the vehicle.

"She said she was in there a little longer than she expected, but she never actually went inside the store, she stayed right there," Cox said. "Just in that three minutes somebody had driven up and hopped in her car."

When Stultz was finished looking at plants, she came out and saw her vehicle and grandchildren were missing.

"At first she just thought it was me, she thought I had found the car and just took off and was tricking her," Cox said.

However, Cox was still inside the mall. Stultz scanned the parking lot for Cox, but couldn't find her or her vehicle.

"Then she started getting really worried, and figured that I wouldn't have done that," Cox said. "She started walking up and down the lanes...it was in between two bigger vehicles, so it was really hard to see from a distance."

Stultz finally found her vehicle after a few minutes of searching. Cox said her kids had probably been alone in the vehicle for about five minutes.

"She got in the car and drove around and waited for me to come out," Cox said. "She told me she was just in shock and she was just so glad that all three kids were OK."

Cox said when she found out what had taken place she went into Kmart and called authorities.

"I called the police, but they said there was nothing they could do because there was no surveillance," Cox said.

Lt. Rodney Banyai said Cox called in the incident at 12:13 p.m. He agreed since the Dickinson Police Department had nothing but a description to work with, they didn't have much to act on.

"I would imagine until they get more information, there isn't much they can do with the description they have," Banyai said. "Until we get more information we're pretty much stuck."

After speaking with authorities, Cox began questioning Kmart employees.

"They don't remember even seeing the car there," Cox said. "You would think somebody would have seen it since it was parked somewhere where it shouldn't have been."

She said she went looking for a woman who fit the description her oldest son had given her.

"I scoured the mall for her for over an hour," Cox said. "Everybody I asked said they never saw her and they never saw anybody get into my granny's vehicle."

Banyai said not further action is being taken at this time.

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The Dickinson (N.D.) Press and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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