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Grandmother kidnapping case now 1 week old - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Grandmother kidnapping case now 1 week old

Sheffield, Vermont - September 17, 2010

"It's been a week," sighed Matt Brill of Sheffield. "Exactly a week today."

Seven days and still no sign of Pat O'Hagan: the popular and vibrant Sheffield village grandmother police say was forced from her home by a kidnapper. "We're just still in the dark about what's going on," Brill said.

Investigators call the 78-year-old's abduction an isolated incident, but aren't revealing a motive, naming a suspect, or discussing any evidence. Vt. State Police Maj. Ed Ledo and Capt. David Covell repeatedly declined to answer many questions from reporters earlier this week.

Lots of "no comments" come as no surprise to Robin Adler. "The fact police aren't releasing information is typical," she said.

Adler is a former defense attorney who handled several kidnapping cases in California. She now teaches classes on justice at Norwich University. Adler explains if detectives say too much, that could risk tipping off suspects, compromising the victim's safety, contaminating evidence, and damaging a future prosecution.

"In an abduction case, it's not a public safety issue. They're concerned with the safety of one person: the person who's abducted. And building a case; making sure that case will stand up in court," Adler said.

Today, the Vermont State Police scuba team dove into a quarry on private property in Sheffield looking for evidence, but found nothing. Detectives continue talking to Northeast Kingdom residents and following up on leads. "Stranger abductions are rare," Adler noted.

Adler says police are likely reconstructing O'Hagan's travels leading up to last Friday, looking at people she may have had casual contact with. The lawyer says ransoms are uncommon, despite what you may have seen in thriller movies. Rage, revenge, domestic violence, parental custody disputes and sexual assaults are more typical in kidnapping cases.

"There's some kind of connection," Adler said of most kidnappers and their victims. "Not necessarily a familial connection or intimate connection, but there's some connection."

Recent high-profile cases involving kidnapping charges include the rapes and killings of UVM student Michelle Gardner-Quinn and Braintree 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. Security video from businesses in those cases helped point police to suspects, but investigators working the O'Hagan case-- in the rural town of 700 or 800-- may not have the advantage of surveillance tape. "There's no business here, all we have is a post office," Brill said.

Police plan to stay on the job through the weekend, hoping to put an end to the worrying in Sheffield. "No word, no suspect," Brill said. "Pretty creepy."

This weekend the State Police Search and Rescue Team will lead area ATV clubs and fire departments in more outdoor searches. They're hoping nice weather this weekend means more people will be outside, meaning more chances to find Pat O'Hagan-- or, at least, some clues.

Vermont State Police continue offering a $5,000 cash reward for significant information in the case. They're asking the public to call them with tips at the barracks in St. Johnsbury at 802-748-3111 or the State Police Crime Information Tip Line at 802-241-5355.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News

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