SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The suspect in the attempted child kidnapping at the Walmart on West Grand Street in Springfield Sunday afternoon has been identified as 58-year-old Nelson Vrana.
According to court documents, Vrana has been charged with attempted child kidnapping, a Class B felony.
The probable cause statement said that Vrana approached the child while standing near his father in the self-checkout line, lifted him under his shoulders, and said, “You’re coming with me.”
Vrana then attempted to take the child to his car but was stopped by the child’s father, who grabbed his child from Vrana. The statement says Vrana then went out to his car and tried to leave, but the child’s father approached him.
A witness said that Vrana told the child’s father, “Bring it, big boy. Whatever you wanna do.”
Then Vrana left the parking lot, but not before the child’s father was able to get a description of the vehicle and a partial license plate number to provide to police.
SPD officers reviewed surveillance footage that showed a man approaching the child and picking him up by the armpits.
Officers were able to track down Vrana’s vehicle and ask him about the incident. At first, he denied being at the Walmart. After he was arrested, however, he told investigators that the incident had been a misunderstanding and that he had picked up the child because he had been running from his parents towards the entrance of the building.
He denied attempting to kidnap the child but said he picked him up because he was afraid the child would run out of the store and into harm’s way.
However, when told there was surveillance footage of the child standing next to his parent and not running away, Vrana had no explanation as to why he picked the child up.
Aaron and Mindy Huffman were stunned when they saw news reports about the arrest. They say a similar thing happened to them the day before at a different Walmart.
“I just basically hit the floor because that could have been my son,” Mindy Huffman said. “A lot of people say God was watching out for him, which I know that. But there are people that are not so lucky and that breaks my heart.”
The Huffmans were at the Walmart on South Campbell Avenue when their son needed to use the restroom.
“As we walk into the bathroom, this guy comes out of one of the stalls and he says, ‘Oh, there’s a mess in there. I got to clean it up,'” Aaron Huffman said.
According to Aaron Huffman, when his son was washing his hands, the man began talking to them again.
“At that time, I realized the guy had never gone back into the stall to do his supposed cleaning up,” Aaron Huffman said. “He was just standing there watching the whole time.”
The man told the Huffman’s son he had a present for him and gave the 5-year-old a plastic pumpkin with stickers inside.
“This is probably the strangest thing that I’ve ever seen happen in a bathroom, with some random guy giving out something to a 5-year-old boy,” Aaron Huffman said.
The Huffmans say the man who approached their son resembles Vrana’s mugshot.
We reached out to Springfield Police who said they are looking into the Huffmans’ case but they could not comment on whether the suspects are the same person.
“It breaks my heart that I have to be that cautious of a mom now,” Mindy Huffman said.
Vrana is being held without bond.