Tangipahoa Parish authorities launched a search for blue van Friday morning after getting a report that a woman tried to sell a child, believed to be about 10 years old, to patrons at a Hammond gas station. By late Friday afternoon, it was believed that the woman, child and others in the van had fled Louisiana to Texas.
Hammond Police Chief Roddy Devall said it was unclear where the suspect or the girl were headed. Investigators are also trying to piece together whether the alleged incident was due to “some crazy person” or a larger criminal enterprise.
“Hopefully this child is OK, and we’ll find out more information,” Devall said.
The Hammond Police Department received a call about 9:30 a.m. saying a woman at the RaceTrac on U.S. 190 near Interstate 55 was going from vehicle to vehicle asking if anyone wanted to “buy” the child, Devall said.
The woman appeared to be pregnant and was seen with the child, as well as an adult male and an adult female, around a 2005 blue Dodge Caravan with Florida license plate number SXR89, the chief said. Police have not released the identities of any of the people in the group.
Officers spoke with the manager of the RaceTrac, who said members of the group had been asking for gas money around the time police were called.
By 1 p.m., the vehicle was reported in Lake Charles, said State Police Master Trooper Brooks David.
Authorities suspect it continued west throughout the afternoon. David said the suspect’s vehicle had been recorded by a traffic camera in Lake Charles.
“We believe the vehicle is now in Texas,” David said later. “Texas authorities have been notified.”
Devall said his office has released a “Be On Look-Out” notice so law enforcement in Louisiana and Texas will be aware of the case.
RaceTrac is cooperating with authorities on the investigation, company spokeswoman Jessica Rice wrote in an email. She referred all questions to the Hammond Police Department.