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Will Auton at a homecoming celebration with members of St. Luke United Methodist Church in February 2006, following his recuperation from a wreck that left him paralyzed. Police suspect Auton as the driver who harassed an 8-year-old boy in a Southwest Decatur neighborhood last week.
Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Will Auton at a homecoming celebration with members of St. Luke United Methodist Church in February 2006, following his recuperation from a wreck that left him paralyzed. Police suspect Auton as the driver who harassed an 8-year-old boy in a Southwest Decatur neighborhood last week.

Chase not attempt to abduct child
Police say paraplegic suspect
drove after boy to harass him

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com 340-2355

A man who allegedly offered an 8-year-old boy candy and chased him in his car wasn't trying to abduct the child. He was just trying to scare him, Decatur police said Tuesday.

Authorities caught 19-year-old William Jennings Auton after his car broke down on Alabama 24 in Trinity on Friday evening, said Lt. Chris Mathews, a police spokesman.

The disabled red Honda Accord fit the description of the vehicle neighbors saw pursuing the boy in the area of Duncansby Drive Southwest on Jan. 31.

When Trinity police officers stopped to help, they recognized Auton as a suspect. Decatur police had used eyewitness descriptions and calls to a tip line to develop Auton as a suspect and obtain a warrant for his arrest prior to the breakdown.

Mathews could not reveal whether Auton made any statements to investigators, but he did say police now believe Auton never intended to lure the boy into his car.

"Our investigation showed that he was pretty much trying to harass the child, that he was not attempting to abduct him. I can see where neighbors would think the opposite, with him following the child and offering him candy, but what we have seen is that he was only trying to harass the child. We don't really know why he chose to harass that particular child," Mathews said.

Police do not anticipate any further charges against Auton, Mathews said.

Investigators identified a black male passenger inside the vehicle, but police did not release his name because he will not face any charges in connection with the incident.

Auton, a paraplegic, is wheelchair-bound. He drives his car by means of hand controls, police said. A wreck on Old Moulton Road on Nov. 27, 2005, left Auton paralyzed from the waist down.

Auton was released Friday from Decatur City Jail on $500 bond.

Phone calls to a number listed for Auton's residence were not returned Tuesday.

Police said the boy was walking on Lenox Drive Southwest when Auton drove up and revved his engine, frightening him.

When the boy began to run, Auton followed in his car. At one point, the boy stopped running and Auton offered him some candy, Mathews said.

The boy ran to the safety of a neighbor's home and Auton drove away, Mathews said.

The incident caused panic among parents in the area and prompted school officials to send out warnings.

Many parents were already on edge after two reports, in late December and early January, of a white male in a red car trying to pick up children on the other side of town, near Eastwood Elementary School.

Those cases were unrelated to the Jan. 31 incident, and one of the reports later proved unfounded, Mathews said.

Mathews said he hopes parents can rest easier knowing that two of the three cases have been closed and that neither turned out to be what it first appeared.

The Dec. 22 case of a suspicious man offering juveniles a ride remains open and under investigation, Mathews said.

Anyone with information about that case may contact the confidential police tip line at 341-INFO (4636).

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