Sunday, March 17, 1996
Cross your fingers for a very good guy

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Really, I don't think the story could have been more dramatic. A little boy snatched from the home of his prominent parents. FBI. Series of ransom calls. A daring, and I mean daring, rescue. Don't you love a happy ending? Boy, I do.

Jason Comisar, kidnapped 18 years ago, now is a senior at Miami University, a good-looking kid, an inch or three under 6 feet. ''No ill effects,'' reports his father, Michael E. Comisar, over coffee at the family's Maisonette restaurant.

Now president of the Maisonette Group, Michael was only 27 years old in 1978 when a man broke into the Comisars' North Avondale home, pointed a pistol at Kathy Comisar and demanded money. Just then, their 3-year-old son awakened from his afternoon nap and toddled into the room.

Bruce Nelson Baltzer, son of an affluent businessman, grabbed the naked little boy by the hand and ran out of the house.

Michael ''drove home at about a hundred miles an hour, then there was nothing for me to do.'' Except wait.

Gunshots, a rescue

The hours passed in ''sort of a shock state,'' but Michael Comisar can remember when he first met FBI agent Jim Ader. ''He was very reassuring. Ader was the lead guy . . . the get-the-kid-back guy.'' Middle-of-the-night phone calls from the kidnapper, who faked a heavy French accent, demanded that $100,000 be left in a briefcase at the airport.

Mr. Comisar made the drop the morning after his son's abduction. Bruce Baltzer retrieved the money, then shoved the boy, still naked, out of his car. When the kidnapper spotted Jim Ader running toward him, he gunned the car straight toward the agent.

''Just like in the movies,'' Mr. Comisar says. ''Jim stood right there.'' He mimes a two-handed crouch stance. ''He shot. He spun out of the way and shot again.''

Then this tough guy, this authentic tough guy, found a white blanket and wrapped the child in it. He buried his face briefly in the little boy's mop of hair, I am told, before he picked Jason up and carried the child home to his mother.

A year or so later, Jim Ader was transferred to another FBI office. Bruce Baltzer was convicted and sent to jail. He was paroled, tried to rob a Kroger store and died in prison. Meanwhile, the FBI agent captured more than 300 fugitives and rescued five more kidnapped children before his retirement in January 1994.

A friend here in Cincinnati remembers him as ''a health nut, always keeping in shape and eating right. So it seems doubly unfair that this should happen to him.''

''This'' is a congenital liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis. His only chance is a liver transplant. Jim's wife, Sheila, talking to me from Tucson, said, ''Please don't make this a sob story, something pitiful. Jim would hate that.''

Well, of course, I have absolutely no control over anybody else's tear ducts. But, myself, I think the whole thing is rather touching.

''He doesn't want any special favors or anything,'' his wife says. I sort of knew that, because Michael Comisar says Jim Ader won't even let him pick up the tab at LaNormandie when he's back in town.

''After the testing and confirmation that we have financing, Jim's records will go before a committee,'' Sheila says. ''The transplant committee does not just review medical information, but tries to learn what the candidate was in life.''

So, anyway, Jim Ader, this good and brave man, is in Tucson. Waiting for a happy ending.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 mHz) and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.