A Perkasie man who confessed to Solebury Township Police that he was the operator of a white van involved in an alleged child luring attempt, and who was also questioned on a similar purported incident by a Pennridge Regional Police officer, will not be prosecuted by the Bucks County DA’s Office.
The decision appears to be based on a legal technicality and the results of a polygraph test, according to interviews with law enforcement officials and publicly available information.
On May 13, Solebury Township Police said they received a report of an incident during which a white male in a white van allegedly attempted to convince three boys in the North Pointe development to approach his vehicle so he could “give them a basketball.”
The three boys, aged approximately 10-11, had been playing in a residential driveway when approached, were immediately suspicious, and told their parents.
Four days later, Solebury Township police say they were alerted to a purportedly similar incident that was investigated by a Pennridge Regional Police officer. In that incident, three boys of similar age to the three involved in Solebury were also offered a basketball by the alleged suspect in his van while playing outside their home. The Pennridge officer apparently did not make an arrest, and the Pennridge Regional Police Department did not return a call from the Free Press seeking comment.
Subsequently, one of the boys involved in the Solebury incident was able to identify the alleged suspect in a photo lineup. At that point, according to Detective/Corporal Roy Ferrari of the Solebury Township Police, “The suspect confessed, and said he was a ‘scrapper’, and that he picks through garbage and finds sporting goods, which he offers to children.” He also indicated that “in Philadelphia, his gifts are appreciated,” said Ferrari.
Ferrari told the suspect, “I find your behavior in Solebury to be suspicious and alarming.” Solebury Police requested a charge of misdemeanor in the first degree for attempting to lure a child into a vehicle, they say.
But the Bucks County DA said the suspect’s actions were “not substantial” and that he would not prosecute, said Ferrari, “because when the [Solebury] kids ran away, he threw the basketball after them, although he originally said ‘come and get it’.” Additionally, said Ferrari, the suspect passed a polygraph test ordered by the DA’s office. The usefulness of polygraphs is the subject of some controversy among scientists.
Solebury Police Chief Dominick P. Bellizzie said he requested an explanation of the decision, and in a May 29 letter, the DA said that “he felt that the suspect’s actions didn’t warrant criminal prosecution because he never invited them into the car, and he left the ball behind when the children ran away.”
While Solebury Police were quick to underscore their respect for Bucks County DA David W. Heckler, their frustration level on this case is clearly running high. After an all-out manhunt by veteran Detective Ferrari quickly netted a suspect, the technicality of whether the suspect allegedly said “come over here” or “come inside” seems to have played a large role in the DA’s decision not to pursue charges.
The Bucks County DA’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment.