Missing girl case a lesson in communication
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | April 06,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Rutland City police look for a missing girl around 1 a.m. Friday on Pine Street.
Dawn Kitchin said she won’t take the word of a child on face value the next time her daughter asks to let a friend sleep over.
The Rutland woman received a knock on her door at 1 a.m. Friday from Rutland police who, along with more than a dozen law enforcement officers and volunteers from the community, had been searching for her daughter’s 7-year-old friend for most of the night.
The massive search also included the efforts of state police in New York who dispatched a helicopter to help probe areas around East Creek that were inaccessible to searchers on the ground.
“Honestly, I did not know,” Kitchin said sitting in her apartment on Pine Street on Friday afternoon. “Her mom is probably mad at me, but I didn’t know.”
Kitchin said her 10-year-old daughter spent the afternoon playing with the 7-year-old who had come to the house once before.
At dinner time, Kitchin said her daughter asked if her friend could stay for the night. When Kitchin asked the girl if it was OK with her mom, she was told it was. But Kitchin said when she asked if she could call the girl’s parent, she was told the girl’s mom, Lisa Field, was asleep.
“She said she had a cellphone, though, and her mom would text her if she needed her, and she said her mom said it was OK on a school night because she lived right around the corner and could go home in the morning to get dressed,” Kitchin said.
Field could not be reached for an interview Friday, but city police said she did not give her daughter consent to stay at a friend’s house and had never met Kitchin.
Kitchin said it was true that she had never met Field but trusted her daughter and her friend. She said she planned to visit with Field on Friday to apologize and explain what happened.
“I don’t want everyone to think I lured a kid in here,” she said. “I feel really bad because for six hours she didn’t know where her daughter was.”
Police began searching for the 7-year-old at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, more than two hours after the girl was last seen riding her bicycle on Pine Street.
Police from the city along with Vermont State Police, Rutland County Sheriff’s Department officers, state Department of Corrections personnel, Rutland City firefighters and volunteers from the neighborhood combed Pine Street and the adjoining neighborhoods for hours searching for the girl. Officers from Fair Haven Police and Vergennes Police were also sent to Rutland but city police said Friday it was unclear if they arrived before the girl was found.
When the search on the ground failed to find any trace of the girl, a helicopter was called to search the areas around East Creek, including the grounds of the Rutland Country Club, Rutland Police Sgt. John Sly said.
But the girl wasn’t found until officers began knocking on doors in the neighborhood. Sly said after examining and questioning the girl they determined she was unharmed.
“Everyone was just very relieved to have her home last night,” Sly said.
When she saw people on the street with flashlights, Kitchin said she asked the girl again if her mother knew where she was.
“She said she did and she said she had a phone if her mom needed to call her,” Kitchin said.
Police eventually knocked on her door at about 1 a.m., she said.
Kitchin was questioned extensively by city investigators who, as of Friday afternoon, had found no criminal activity on her part.
“At this particular point in time, it’s looking like this is just a set of circumstances that could have been avoided,” Sly said.
As for Kitchin, the Rutland mom said she plans to insist on talking to other parents before allowing future sleepovers.
“This has taught me a lesson,” she said. “From now on, I’m making sure the other mom knows what’s going on.”