RITTMAN — On May 4, Rittman police answered the call of a missing 7-month-old child at the residence of Jordyn Pamer and Zachary Phillips. According to the police report, the couple had arrived home and Pamer placed the infant, still in a car seat, on the couch while she went upstairs and showered as Phillips slept.
After showering, the report states that Pamer returned downstairs to find the infant and the carrier missing and called the police, as well as, her parents. The child was later found by Pamer’s father in the basement, still in the car seat carrier, beside an open basement door.
While safe, the question still remains as to who was responsible for moving the child and carrier to the basement. The report states that family members could not think of anyone who would want to do this; though about a month ago, a mysterious visit from someone purporting to be from Wayne County Children Services may indicate foul play.
A news release from Wayne County Children Services states that the agency “has not received any reports on these citizens and did not send any employees to the homes” and that there are reports involving a “woman and a man in a black car” claiming to be from the agency “demanding access to their homes.”
Deanna Nichols-Stika, executive director of Wayne County Children Services, said that if any citizen is ever suspicious about a person saying they are from the agency to call while the person waits.
“Every staff person would have a badge with them,” Stika said. “It is our policy that our staff always show that to the person they are talking with. Our preference is to always call first, but if there is any question, call the office to verify the visit. Things happen in the world that cause us to be aware of your surroundings and be hyper-vigilant.”
Stika said that she is familiar with other incidents of people pretending to be from the agency in nearby counties, one case involved a fake badge.
“Our employees will wait patiently while you call and verify the identification of someone there,” she continued. “They will be supportive of that.”
Rittman Police Chief Ray Arcuri is concerned about the incident and has gone door-to-door to uncover any information he could about the alleged imposters.
“We were canvassing the neighborhood, and found out — which added credence to her (Pamer) story — that somebody is out there (posing as employees of Wayne County Children Services),” Arcuri said. “A lady a couple of doors down said that someone was at her home and a neighbor saw it happen as well.”
According to Arcuri, the incident involving Pamer took place about a month ago, but there have been reports of others claiming to be from the agency as recent as last week in the area who do not fit the description that Pamer provided of the individual who came to her door.
Arcuri then revisited the homes with members of Wayne County Children Services.
“We had the legitimate people from Children Services with us,” he said. “We went to the houses to ensure that it wasn’t any of (them). They showed pictures of staff members and they couldn’t identify anyone as the person.”
Arcuri suspects that there may be multiple people committing a fraud.
“We are being told that there was a male and a female that visited the neighbors' homes,” he said. “The house at the place the child was moved — that was only a female — and she has a totally different description.”
Arcuri said that it is possible that three different people are involved.
“If something doesn’t seem right, call us,” Arcuri said. “We will, gladly, go on a thousand false alarms just to get the real deal.”
Anyone with additional information is urged to contact the Rittman Police Department at 330-925-8040. To verify a member of Wayne County Children Services, call 330-345-5340.
Dan Starcher can be reached at 330-287-1626 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WoosterWriter and Twitter at www.twitter.com/danstarcher.