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Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Vi Ripken Kidnapping Case: An Unsolved Mystery

     Cal Ripken, Jr., inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 2007, played 21 years for the Baltimore Orioles. Because he played in 2,632 consecutive games, Ripken earned the title the "Iron Man." He was a celebrity and businessman in the Baltimore area.

     In July 2012, Vi Ripken, the former ballplayer's 74-year-old mother, became a celebrity in her own right as a victim of an abduction that took place in July 2012. Based on what was published in the media, and Cal Ripken's public statement on the matter, the following was the initial and sketchy account of this odd crime:

     Between seven and eight in the morning of Tuesday, July 24, 2012, an unknown man entered Vi Ripken's garage in Aberdeen, Maryland, a town 30 miles northeast of Baltimore, and forced her at gun point into her silver, 1998 Lincoln Town Car. The abductor was described as a clean-shaven white male who was five feet ten inches tall, and weighed 180 pounds. He wore glasses, an orange ball cap, and Camouflage colored clothing.

     The kidnapper tied Vi's hands and blindfolded her. (According to the victim, he originally planned to cover her eyes with tape. We don't know what he used to tie her up, or if she was bound behind her back.) With the victim in the back seat of her own car, the abductor drove her around Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties. They stopped for food, and he lit her cigarettes. At first the kidnapper said he wanted her money and the car, but changed his mind.

     At some point in the abduction, the man told Vi that he wasn't going to hurt her, and that he had decided to take her back to her house. The next day, at six in the morning, the kidnapper parked the car 100 yards from Vi's dwelling, and walked away. Still bound, Vi managed to honk the horn which alerted a neighbor. In telling friends and family what happened, Vi said her abductor did not know her son was Cal Ripken, Jr. (This suggested that she told him that.) He had not physically harmed her, and did not demand a ransom.

     In a press conference held on Friday, August 3, 2012, Cal Ripken, Jr. said he first learned of his mother's disappearance at 9 PM on the day of her abduction. His sister phoned him with the news that a witness had seen a woman in Baltimore County riding in the back seat of a car bearing the license number of the Lincoln Town Car. This person had called the Baltimore County Police. The county police relayed this information to the police in Aberdeen.

     After Vi Ripken's safe return, the authorities distributed a police-sketch of the abductor (these cartoonish depictions are generally useless). The sketch was placed on five massive billboards in the Baltimore area. The authorities also made public a surveillance video tape showing a man in a ball cap walking out of a Walmart store in Glen Burnie, Maryland, an Anne Arundel County town about an hour from Aberdeen. The police did not revealed how this man fit into the story, but one would assume he was the suspected abductor, and that at some point during the kidnapping, he entered the store to purchase something.

     At the press conference on August 3, 2012, Cal Ripken, Jr. said his mother had not returned to her home in Aberdeen, but had otherwise resumed her normal routine. He also said she was talking about her experience "nonstop." On Friday night, August 3, 2012 the kidnapping was featured on the Lifetime Cable Network's "America's Most Wanted." The Aberdeen police offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the Ripken abductor.

    The police did not release many details of the crime. For example, did the authorities know the identity of the witness who spotted the woman in the back of the Lincoln Town Car? What did Vi and her abductor do during the 24-hour abduction? Did they sleep? Did they leave the car? Where did she use the restroom? Did crime scene investigators process the car for latent fingerprints and other forms of trace evidence? Did the abductor leave behind the material used to tie the victim up? What about the blindfold? Did the abductor use the victim's credit or ATM cards?

     The biggest mystery, of course, was the identity of the abductor, and why he chose to kidnap Vi Ripken.

     On August 2, 2017, more than five years after the Ripken abduction, the police released a new composite sketch of the man they believe had kidnapped Vi Ripken. The FBI had entered the investigation.

    As of this writing, no arrests have been made in the case. Moreover, investigators have not identified a suspect.

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