Crime

Accused of kidnapping Fresno school girls, suspect confesses to crimes, police say

Suspect arrested after confessing to kidnapping students in Fresno

Fresno Police Lt. Tom Laband describes how detectives tracked down a man accused of kidnapping three grade-school girls in Fresno, California.
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Fresno Police Lt. Tom Laband describes how detectives tracked down a man accused of kidnapping three grade-school girls in Fresno, California.

Fresno police Friday announced the arrest of a man on charges of kidnapping, indecent exposure and other sexual crimes after multiple girls identified him as the suspect sought in crimes targeting girls on their way to school.

Dennis Clark, 25, was booked into Fresno County Jail after confessing to the crimes targeting both grade school and junior high school girls near Centennial and Vinland elementary schools, according to Lt. Tom Laband, head of the department’s family justice bureau.

Police first learned of the incidents when a Tioga Middle School student told her parents that a man exposed himself to her after offering her a ride while she was near Vinland on Aug. 26, Laband said. Police later learned that the suspect also exposed himself to three other girls nearby.

On Aug. 28, Laband said that the suspect was able to convince three elementary school girls to get in his car for a ride to Centennial. Instead, he drove away from the school and committed “an inappropriate sexual-related activity” in the car and showed the girls “sexually harmful material,” Laband said. None of the girls were harmed physically, Laband said.

The lieutenant said multiple police “flooded the area” to track down the suspect and his car, reportedly a Mazda CX-3. Detectives recovered video from multiple cameras at homes and apartment complexes that led them to an apartment complex near North Maple and East Shields avenues Thursday. Once the car was located, police identified Clark through surveillance as the driver, and he was identified by victims who looked at photo lineups.

Clark admitted to the crimes after he was interviewed by police, Laband said. Clark has lived in California for several years and has no criminal history in the state. He previously resided in Ohio, where he also has no criminal history, Laband said.

The incidents, Laband said, demonstrate the importance of parents having conversations with their children about interacting with strangers.

“We live in a society where people are generally polite,” Laband said. “When someone comes up and says, ’Hey, I need some help finding my puppy,’ the inclination is to help. These are the type of things people have to discuss with their kids. ... How to appropriately respond.”

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