For local authorities, the investigation into a possible kidnapping Thursday in Hillsville couldn’t have ended any better.
For starters, the note found at the Quality Inn in Hillsville from a person claiming to be missing ended up being a hoax, Hillsville Police Department Sgt./Investigator James “Junior” Alderman said, meaning everybody involved is safe and sound. And while there ultimately was not a missing person in this case, Alderman said the possible kidnapping showed how well the system works when needed.
“The ultimate thing we can take away from this is if we have to push the panic button, the system is in place and it works,” Alderman said.
Law enforcement agencies from all across the continent worked with the Hillsville Police Department on the case. Alderman said the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Interpol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Lachute Police in Canada all worked with local authorities after HPD Captain Jason Hawks received a call from the Quality Inn Hotel in Hillsville on Thursday advising that housekeeping found a handwritten note from a child named Jasmine Hines claiming to be “missing.” A search of national, state and local databanks for missing children did not come up with a missing person by that name.
Police determined that on November 28, Pierre Morand, of Lachute, Quebec, checked into the Quality Inn Hotel in Hillsville and rented a room for one person. A later check of video surveillance footage revealed that the man appeared to have a young girl traveling with him. Alderman confirmed that the letter was found on a dresser in the room Morand had stayed.
After being questioned by the FBI in Florida, where he was vacationing with his wife, it was determined that Moran’s wife was the person with him in the video.
“We had the FBI check with him in Florida to make sure he was okay and that everybody was okay. At that time we didn’t know the note was a hoax. We also had conflicting reports that his wife was missing,” Alderman said. “They were shocked when the FBI interviewed them. They didn’t know we were looking for them. Our initial concern was to check on their health and welfare and see if they saw anybody. All we knew at that point was that one person checked in and two left. That note was enough to make your hair stand up and we were just doing exactly what we were supposed to do. “
The case was cleared on Friday when the FBI met with the person who left the note in the Quality Inn in Hillsville, Alderman said.
“The FBI met with the individual who wrote the letter, a minor child under the age of 14, and that is when we were able to determine it was a hoax,” Alderman said.
Alderman said the minor who wrote the letter would not be charged for various reasons.
“There is no crime by the person that wrote the note because they are not the one that directly reported it to the authorities. Also, it was a child in another state and it was a misdemeanor. I think having to sit down with the FBI was probably punishment enough because I am sure it scared the pants off them,” Alderman said. “There are also more circumstances in this I am not at liberty to divulge. But I just thank our lucky starts. If it was your kid, you would want us to do what we did. The FBI and everybody on down the line said we did everything perfectly to resolve this case in the amount of time we did. We had these folks tracked down and put it to bed in 28 hours and 14 minutes, which is pretty well utilizing all the resources at our availability.”
Alderman couldn’t say enough about the help Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner and his department provided in the case. The HPD and Carroll County Sheriff’s Office were in constant contact exchanging information and following up on leads, Alderman said. Additionally, Gardner provided Investigator Kevin Kemp and office personnel to assist the HPD with the case. Local contacts with the Virginia State Police and FBI also paid huge dividends, Alderman said, while previous contacts with the Royal Mounted Canadian Police also led to the agency providing assistance, putting Alderman in direct contact with the Lachute Police Department, where Morand resides.
“We were in constant contact with them. Even the Fusion Center, Border Patrol and the FBI in two or three different states were involved,” Alderman said. “For a small town in Virginia to network with that many agencies - state and international - and to put an end to it that quickly was phenomenal.”
Some have questioned why local authorities didn’t issue an Amber Alert in the case. Alderman said the HPD didn’t have enough information to meet the criteria for an Amber Alert at the time, which is why that resource couldn’t be utilized.
“I talked to people as far away as Arizona. We even followed up on leads on a van in Idaho. We were networking with agencies in so many places and Jason Hawks was right in the middle of this, helping us for hours on end,” Alderman said. “Everybody worked really well together and we appreciate everybody. The staff at Quality Inn worked with us so well and I must commend them greatly. We’re just thankful for it to end the way it did and thankful for all the agencies involved. Our ultimate goal was to make sure everybody was okay because that note would make your hair stand up.”