Police: Kidnappers might frequent campgrounds

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The search continues for a child allegedly abducted by his parents earlier this month, and officials are now saying the couple might be frequenting campgrounds, such as the ones found in the Conecuh National Forest.

Emmanuel Menz

Emmanuel Menz

On March 6, Crestview Police Department officials began a search for three-year-old Emmanuel Menz, after he was allegedly taken from a Burger King during a supervised visit with his parents, who do not have custodial rights.

CPD Lt. Andrew Schneider said authorities are searching for 50-year-old Karl R. Menz and 49-year-old Virginia M. Lynch, who they believe are traveling with the child in a 2013 Ford F250 Uhaul Van bearing Arizona plates AE86502. Schneider said the vehicle also has ID No. BE5700R printed on its sides.

This week, Schneider said CPD has reason to believe the couple may be frequenting campgrounds, and locations like Conecuh National Forest are far from out of the search area.

“When we send out a BOLO (be on the lookout) alert or an Amber alert, it is for an area of about 500 miles,” Schneider said following the initial report. “There are several circumstance that can occur, so the response can be particularly fluid, because we don’t know what they may do, or what direction they could travel in.”

Conecuh National Forest District Ranger Tim Mersmann said the forest is patrolled, but some areas would be easier to hide in than others.

“We have one developed campground open year-round with electrical and water hookups,” Mersmann said. “We charge for that and we have camp-ground hosts and a forest service employee that checks in daily.”

While people camping in the developed site are asked to register using names and other information, Mersmann said that process is a “self-serve” system that would make it easy for a camper to falsify information if he or she so chose.

Virginia M. Lynch

Virginia M. Lynch

Karl R. Menz

Karl R. Menz

Mersmann also said “dispersed camping” is allowed anywhere in the forest this time of year without a permit.

“We have one federal employee that patrols the forest, but it would be remarkable he would run up on someone who was doing what they were supposed to do,” he said.

Schneider said there is no reason to single out any specific campground as a more likely target for the couple, but said all local areas should remain on alert.

“They must be obtaining provisions, and may be seen in grocery stores, truck stops, convenience stores, pharmacies restaurants – specifically fast food restaurants,” he said. “Emmanuel has autistic characteristics and requires medication for severe asthma. (He) prefers to play in Burger King Play areas, as a method of comfort for his condition. Karl Menz may be using unrestricted WiFi to obtain Internet access.”

Schneider said anyone who has any contact with the suspects should dial 911 immediately, contact local law enforcement or contact the CPD at 850.682.2055.