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'Too soon' to talk about abduction, Violet Ripken says

Two weeks after Violet Ripken was abducted at gunpoint, she said it was "too soon to share any thoughts" about the ordeal as she took in a game Wednesday night at the Aberdeen stadium named for her famous baseball family.

Ripken, the 74-year-old mother of Orioles "Ironman" Cal Ripken Jr. and widow of former Orioles managerCal Ripken Sr., came out of Conrad's Crabs restaurant at Ripken Stadium shortly after the start of the Aberdeen IronBirds game and smiled as she chatted with an usher, her hand on his arm. Approached by a reporter, she spoke briefly before being escorted away by the usher.

A devoted fan of the team and a regular presence at the stadium for years, Ripken has kept up her attendance since her bizarre 24-hour abduction from her nearby home of 46 years, a family spokesman said.

Regular IronBirds fans at the game between the Orioles' minor league affiliate and the Tri-City ValleyCats expressed lingering shock at the abduction, in which Ripken was driven around in her car by a still-unidentified middle-age man before being returned to her home unharmed. But they said they were happy to have her back.

Police are still searching for Ripken's abductor.

"I'm just glad she's OK and is able to come back to the park," said Fred Gillotte, of Havre de Grace, who has held tickets to nine games per season for the past few years.

Said Fran Sclafani, of Edgewood, a regular attendee of games: "I think it's the best thing that can happen. Get back into the swing of things and don't let that creep bother her."

The IronBirds rallied in the ninth inning Wednesday night to win, 3-2.

The case shook the small town and left many — including police and members of the Ripken family — confused as to the man's motive for taking Violet Ripken.

"It's bizarre on many levels, and it's unsettling on many levels," Cal Ripken Jr. said at a news conference he held at Camden Yards on Friday.

His mother was abducted at gunpoint from her garage on the morning of July 24, tied up in her 1998 Lincoln Town Car and driven around Central Maryland for about 24 hours, police said.

That night, someone saw her car, with her restrained in the back seat, near Ebenezer Road in eastern Baltimore County. The person became suspicious, noted the car's license plate and called police.

The following morning, amid a large police search and with officers posted near her home, Ripken was returned uninjured, left in her car about 100 yards from her home.

Fans at the game recounted that detail Wednesday night, calling it strange and questioning how the abductor was able to slip back onto Ripken's street and leave again unnoticed.

Ripken said the abductor did not talk to his mother much during their hours together in the car, and he didn't know whether his mother or family was targeted.

"It's quite possible it could have been a random act," he said. "It's quite possible it could have been more than that. ... We really just don't know why."

He said the abduction has caused the entire family to rethink security but that his mother has continued activities she enjoys, such as attending a granddaughter's softball game and visiting a beauty salon.

As evidenced Wednesday, IronBirds games are also included on that list.

Aberdeen police have released a composite sketch of the man they are looking for in the abduction, as well as a 35-second video of him shopping at a Walmart in Glen Burnie. They have described him as a white man in his mid-30s to mid-40s with short brown hair and glasses. He is about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds, they said.

The sketch was posted on billboards throughout the region, including on Interstate 95 north of the Fort McHenry Tunnel and on Interstate 83 south of Cold Spring Lane, said Lt. Fred Budnick, a department spokesman.

krector@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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