Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Oct. 21, 2020

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Man suspected in attempted kidnapping appears in court

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

A Portland man who allegedly attempted to kidnap a 5-year-old girl Saturday at a Vancouver Wal-Mart identified himself in video surveillance carrying the girl out of the store but told police he couldn’t remember doing so, according to charging documents.

Steven W. Hayes, 45, made a first appearance Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of first-degree attempted kidnapping in connection with the incident.

Video surveillance at about 3 p.m. Saturday captured a man, later identified by police as Hayes, grabbing the girl and carrying her out of the store at 221 N.E. 104th Ave. near Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard and Interstate 205, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Superior Court.

He released the girl once outside the store, and she ran back inside, the affadavit read. Several witnesses then began to chase him as he fled toward the northwest corner of the store and through a pathway to an adjacent neighborhood, court records said.

The child was not hurt and was reunited with her family.

‘Strange’ man

When officers arrived, the girl’s mother told them she had come to the store with her three children and was at the customer service counter. She allowed the girl and another child to go look at some toys at a nearby checkout station, she said. A few minutes later, only one child returned, and she asked him to go retrieve the girl, according to the affidavit.

The mother said while the boy was gone, the girl returned, crying, and said a strange man “took” her. Some witnesses who observed the incident then contacted her, the court documents read.

The girl told police she didn’t know the man, but he knew her first name. Her mother said she had been calling the girl by her first name in the store, the affidavit said.

Officers contacted store security and obtained video surveillance of the incident. In it, Hayes is seen walking from the store’s front aisle inside the row of checkout stations, leading the girl by the hand. They entered a closed checkout station, which was cordoned by a yellow chain. They ducked under the barrier, and continued walking through the checkout station and into the aisle outside of the stations. They are then seen walking toward the west exit of the store, at which time he picked up the girl and carried her outside, according to court documents.

Search launched

Police canvassed the neighborhood where Hayes had allegedly fled and contacted the manager at the Maple Ridge Apartments, 306 N.E. 104th Ave. The manager viewed store surveillance and identified the suspect as “Steven,” who frequents or resides in an apartment leased by his brother, the affidavit said.

Officers contacted a woman, identified as Cassandra Vessels, who lives at the apartment, and she identified Hayes as the suspect in the video footage. She said he was no longer at the apartment and that she had called her mother, Tammy Lewis, to come pick up Hayes and take him home to Portland, according to court documents. She said she didn’t know about the incident.

An officer called Lewis, who provided directions to the area where she took Hayes on Saturday afternoon, but she said she didn’t know an address. She said she also was unaware of the incident, the affidavit said.

Lewis later was taken to the Vancouver Police Department’s West Precinct, so she could show police where she dropped off Hayes. She also positively identified him in store video surveillance, court records said.

Portland Police Bureau dispatcher contacted Vancouver police and advised that Hayes’ roommate had called 911 after he saw the surveillance images on the TV news. Portland police responded to the residence near where Lewis said she had dropped off Hayes, and arrested him.

Vancouver police also responded, and said Hayes’ behavior and statements indicated he has a mental illness, court records said.

In an interview with police, Hayes said he couldn’t remember being at Wal-Mart, nor could he remember any encounters with a child. He said he was in Vancouver earlier that day and had woken at his brother’s apartment. He identified Vessels as his brother’s girlfriend and said her mother had taken him home, according to court documents.

He said that sometime after he had woken at the apartment, he walked somewhere to get coffee, which may have been Wal-Mart, the affidavit said.

Hayes initially was booked into the Multnomah County Jail in Portland and was later extradited to Clark County.

During his Wednesday hearing, Judge Robert Lewis appointed Jeff Barrar of the Vancouver Defenders to represent Hayes. Lewis set bail at $150,000 and ordered Hayes not have contact with the alleged victim.

Hayes reportedly has warrants for pending 2009 cases in Battle Ground, which include obstruction and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He also has several convictions in Oregon from the 1990s and late-1980s.

He is set to appear in court Aug. 25 for a competency review.