BEAUFORT, Mo. – Investigators think a stranger abducted 13-year-old Ben Ownby, but drawing a psychological profile of the kidnapper will take "quite some time," Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Friday.
The strongest clue police have is a white pickup truck seen speeding from the scene of Ben's disappearance Monday afternoon. Toelke said time is a growing concern, as is approaching bad weather — rain and possibly freezing rain — that could hamper the search.
"In this case, all we have is a white pickup truck. It's kind of hard to make a profile off of a white truck," Toelke said at a morning news conference. FBI profilers are working on the case, but Toelke said it would be some time before the profile is ready.
Police are interviewing anyone who might have been familiar with the secluded subdivision where Ownby lives. Construction workers and even pizza deliverymen have been questioned, he said.
Ben's family made a tearful plea Thursday for anyone who might have abducted the boy to return him home unharmed.
"Whoever has him, we just want to get him back safely, no questions asked," said Ben's father, William "Don" Ownby.
"He has his whole life ahead of him. Let him have his family back," Ownby said at a news conference with his wife Doris and daughter Amanda by his side.
Ben was last seen Monday afternoon when a school bus dropped him off near his rural home. Road blocks, ground searches and interviews with several suspects haven't resulted in any major breaks in the case, Toelke said.
Between 30 and 40 FBI agents are working on the case, along with state and county authorities, Toelke said. He couldn't comment on the strategy officers are using to track the kidnapper down, but said the investigation is moving forward.
"As long as the leads are coming in, we feel like we're making progress," Toelke said.
Police say at least two people saw the suspicious pickup. A neighbor saw it cruising Ownby's neighborhood hours before his disappeared; a schoolmate saw the same truck speeding away moments after the disappearance.
Neither witness could provide even a vague description of the driver, Toelke said.
Friends, neighbors and strangers have been scouring the woods and passing out fliers since Monday.
Toelke said his office has received about 500 tips, many of them about white pickup trucks. Investigators are checking license plates against lists of registered sex offenders and interviewing truck owners about their whereabouts Monday.
The pickup had dents and rust and lacked hubcaps. The camper shell had one continuous window along the sides, with what appeared to be a ladder rack on top.
Ownby's home computer was scoured by authorities, but both Ownby and Toelke said the search saw no evidence of an Internet acquaintance.
Ben is white, 4-foot-10 and weighs about 100 pounds. He was last seen wearing a hooded St. Louis Rams windbreaker and blue jeans.