Child predator stalks students in Visalia

FRESNO, Calif.

The man approached the children last week while they were walking alone near each of their schools. Although neither child was harmed, police fear the suspect could strike again.

Police, school officials, and especially parents are on high alert ... after the same man made inappropriate advances toward a nine-year-old boy and a ten-year-old girl. The first incident happened last Monday around 8-am. Visalia police say the girl was on Garden Street on her way to Washington Elementary, when a man drove up and asked her a question. When she turned around, the man exposed himself. The girl ran away.

Four days later, a man matching the same description, approached the little boy around 3:20 in the afternoon as he walked on Tulare Avenue ... on his way home from Royal Oaks Elementary. The man repeatedly asked the boy if he needed a ride. The boy refused ... and the suspect drove off.

Sergeant Steven Phillips with the Visalia Police Department says fortunately, both children knew exactly what to do. "They did an excellent job of not getting in the car obviously and also the one girl ran away from him."

Following both cases, the Visalia Unified School District told teachers to remind students about stranger-danger. They also asked staff to be on the lookout outside each school throughout the day.

Lucinda Mejdell-Awbrey with Visalia Unified said, "People were watching for the suspect vehicle or any stranger abnormal type incidents happening near the school."

Some parents we spoke to Thursday say they were unaware of the incidents. That's because the district chose not to alert them until police confirmed the information.

Kellie Allen said, "My kids are out here walking back and forth, walking down the street to another person's house where they stay. Yeah. It's very concerning."

With an investigation now underway, school officials say they will warn parents. Meanwhile, investigators fear there may be more victims ... which are why they're asking the public to be alert ... and safe.

Police are looking for a Hispanic man, in his thirties or forties. He has a dark complexion and a mustache and was last seen driving a tan or beige four-door sedan. He was also wearing glasses with black-wire rims during both incidents. Anyone with information is urged to call the Visalia Police Department.

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