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Kidnap suspect defends actions.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

A man accused of trying to abduct a 2 1/2 -year-old boy from a Boy Scout family carnival earlier this month told Eugene police investigators that he was only trying to help the child after seeing the youngster accidentally smack his head on a sign in a church parking lot, according to police reports.

Azoulas Yurashunas, 23, said he understood his actions on April 17 appeared suspicious, but that he intended to try to find the child's mother - who at the time was frantically searching for her son, police reports state.

"It was every parent's worse nightmare," the boy's mother said Monday when asked about the incident during a brief telephone interview.

"You turn around for 10 seconds, then turn back and your kid is gone," she said.

Yurashunas, who lives west of Eugene, pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge of second-degree kidnapping. Under state law, anyone convicted of that crime faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 70 months. Yurashunas has no adult criminal record in Oregon.

Police allege that Yurashunas lured the boy away from a crowd that gathered at Bethesda Lutheran Church in west Eugene for the Boy Scout event.

The child was returned to his mother by a woman who found him in the church parking lot. At the time, the boy was standing with Yurashunas near the kidnapping suspect's car, according to police reports.

A Eugene Police Department crime prevention worker saw Yurashunas with the youngster and reported the incident to dispatchers as the suspect drove away from the church. An officer stopped Yurashunas's Toyota Corolla a few blocks away, reports state.

Yurashunas denied any wrongdoing when officer Jimmy McBride pulled over his car and explained the reason for the traffic stop. He claimed "that he was only assisting the child after the child had struck his head on a sign," McBride wrote in a report.

Yurashunas exited his car, and McBride took from him a hatchet that the suspect carried in a belt, and a 4-inch folding knife found inside a belt pouch, McBride's report states.

The police reports do not include an explanation from Yurashunas for why he carried the weapons.

McBride took Yurashunas back to the police station, where officer Dale Dawson interviewed him.

Yurashunas told Dawson he went to the event to meet with a Boy Scout troop leader. He said he earned his Eagle Scout rank - the highest scout honor - about five years ago, Dawson wrote in a report.

Bryan Phillips, a Boy Scout official who organized the festival, declined to say Monday whether a meeting between Yurashunas and a troop leader did in fact take place.

"I know in general that when people want to call up and help, we're always anxious to meet them and get to know them and their backgrounds," Phillips said.

During his interview with police, Yurashunas said he was walking near the church parking lot when he saw the boy collide with a sign and begin calling for his mother. Yurashunas claimed that he tried to get information from the child about his mother as he walked with him through the lot, Dawson's report states.

The boy's mother said Monday that her son was out of her sight for "two minutes, tops" before another woman grabbed the youngster and returned him to her. The child's mother declined to talk about Yurashunas's claim that he was trying to help the boy.

"Yurashunas said it never occurred to him to contact Scout leaders or anyone else about what he thought was a lost child who was wandering in the parking area," Dawson wrote. "Yurashunas said he knew how it looked to officer McBride and me, that he could see our point of view. He never vehemently denied what he did looked like a child abduction. He said he did not think to ask anyone for help."

Police later booked Yurashunas into the Lane County Jail. He remained behind bars for three days until his parents paid $35,000 to bail him out.

Yurashunas is due back in court May 27 for a pretrial conference. In the meantime, he will remain on house arrest and wear an electronic ankle bracelet that allows police to monitor his whereabouts.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; The 23-year-old says he was trying to help a young boy he thought was injured
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 27, 2010
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