It wasn't an 8-to-10-year-old child who got into the trunk of a sedan on a Washington Township street with the assistance of a woman in her mid-30s, as the "witness" reported.
It was a couple of teenagers.
The mystery was solved by detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office using automated license-plate readers and township police.
Here's what happened:
A group of teens had gone to pick up a friend whose mother purportedly doesn't like one of them, according to an area parent with direct knowledge of the incident.
Apparently they pulled over and let the disliked teen hop into the trunk to hide before picking up their pal.
As soon as they got around the corner, the teenage pariah got into a passenger seat, the unidentified parent told Daily Voice early Monday, Feb. 5.
The group then went to the mall.
The unusual report sparked an intense search in their Pascack Valley township around 4:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3.
It also sparked a flurry of social media posts and news stories.
Authorities shared a neighborhood surveillance video screengrab of the dark red or maroon Toyota described by the witness.
The vehicle was recorded around that time "traveling a normal route to Washington Avenue" and Pascack Road, township Police Chief John Calamari said on Sunday.
The witness did tell responding officers that the two people he saw "clearly knew each other and were acting normally," the chief said.
The witness told his officers the child "climbed into the trunk without help or being touched" and it "appeared to be voluntary," Calamari said.
"The [person] closed the trunk, got in and drove away," the chief said the man reported. "No one else saw anything."
There were no reports of anyone missing in the area, authorities said on Sunday.******
Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella issued a news release at 5 p.m. Monday that read, in part:
"On Saturday, February 3, 2024, at approximately 4:42 p.m., the Township of Washington Police Department responded to a report of an unusual incident that appeared suspicious and could possibly have been a child abduction. Specifically, an area resident reported to police that they observed a vehicle pull over and its driver escort a passenger from the vehicle into the trunk of that car. The vehicle drove away, leaving the passenger in the trunk, which alarmed the witness. It was noted that there were no signs of a struggle or any distress on the part of the passenger, and the driver did not appear to flee when leaving the area. The witness believed that the driver of the vehicle was an adult and the passenger who entered the trunk was a child. Accordingly, the Township of Washington Police Department initiated an investigation.
"The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Child Abduction Response Team was contacted later that evening and joined the investigation. Using surveillance camera footage from the area, detectives were able to locate the owner of the vehicle on Sunday, February 4, 2024. It was confirmed by detectives that both the driver and passenger were consenting teenagers, one of whom entered the trunk on purpose before exiting it shortly thereafter.
"Prosecutor Musella reminds parents and teenagers about the responsibility of driving and ensuring everyone’s safety in a vehicle should always be paramount. Prosecutor Musella encourages bystanders to always report suspicious activity to police without delay, and he would like to thank the Township of Washington Police Department for its assistance in the investigation."
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