Springdale man charged in sex crimes

Saturday, August 8, 1998

BY KIM WESSEL and PERRY BACON
The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- She told police that the man who kidnapped her Thursday was wearing a pair of brown shoes, the kind that don't have any shoelaces.

She said he had a funny haircut, from which police deduced he probably had a receding hairline.

With some extraordinary help from the 6-year-old girl who had just been abducted from outside her home in Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood and sexually assaulted several times, police were able to make an arrest early Friday morning.

"She gave an amazing description, right down to the number of pockets that were on his shorts," said Officer Eric Johnson, a Louisville police spokesman. "Most adults just don't give that type of detailed description. I don't know how she did it, but she did."

Police arrested James D. Gustin, 37, of the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale and charged him with kidnapping, sodomy and sexual abuse. He is being held without bond in the Jefferson County Jail pending arraignment this morning in Jefferson District Court. Police said he had no previous arrests in Kentucky, but the Hamilton County Bureau of Records in Cincinnati said Mr. Gustin was arrested there in 1987 on misdemeanor charges of juvenile enticement and public indecency. Spokesman Steve Barnett said Mr. Gustin was acquitted on the charges, which involved a child under the age of 14. Police say abductions of children by strangers are rare. The federal government estimates that between 3,200 and 4,600 children are taken annually nationwide by people outside their family. But police nonetheless cautioned parents to be careful.

"Even at their own home, in their own yard, a place they might consider a safe haven, they should still be mindful of their child's whereabouts" and keep a close eye on them, Officer Johnson said. Smoketown residents who live near where the abduction occurred said they were stunned by it, despite the prevalence of other types of crime in the neighborhood.

Lisa Whorton, of the 700 block of South Jackson Street, said the incident will make her even more vigilant in watching her children. "I'm not going to let them get out of my sight," she said.

Thursday's abduction took place about 5:30 p.m., Mr. Johnson said. He gave this account of what happened: The girl was playing in the yard outside her house on Preston Street when a man drove up and began asking her questions.

The girl was alone in the yard and her mother was not home, but her mother's boyfriend was inside the house.

When the man asked the girl to get in his car, she refused. The man then grabbed her and put her in the car.

He drove the girl to the parking lot of a Value City store where, according to an arrest report, he forced her pants down and sexually assaulted and sodomized her.

He then drove her to the parking lot of a McDonald's nearby and sexually abused her again, according to the arrest report.

After more than an hour, the man drove the girl to an alley near 22nd Street and Portland Avenue. But when he saw several people walking down the alley, he apparently panicked and pushed the girl out of the car before driving off.

The girl hit her head when she was put in the car, but was otherwise uninjured and wasn't hospitalized.

Louisville police put out a description of the man and his car, and a short while later there was a report that a car matching the description and headed north on Interstate 71 had crashed into a wall near the junction with I-64.

Kentucky State Police stopped Mr. Gustin at about 8 p.m. near New Castle, heading north on I-71. The girl's description of the car and her abductor helped in apprehending Mr. Gustin, police said.

Mr. Johnson said it appeared that Mr. Gustin, who told police he came to Louisville to visit the Speed Art Museum, was headed back to Ohio, but with good communication, police were able to stop him. "It was good, solid teamwork," he said.

Police said that most children who are abducted are taken by a parent or relative someone who doesn't usually want to hurt them. Instances in which children are kidnapped by strangers are rare, said Sgt. Mike Schellenberger, of the Louisville-Jefferson Crimes Against Children Unit.



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