By Justin George, The Baltimore Sun
6:29 PM EDT, August 1, 2013
Hoping to reignite interest in the bizarre kidnapping and mysterious return of his mother, former Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. has announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the man responsible.
"In our minds, this is important, not only for us and our community, but for all communities," Ripken said Thursday. "We would like to get closure on this case and give all of us some peace of mind."
The announcement comes just over a year after Vi Ripken was kidnapped at gunpoint from her Aberdeen home of more than five decades, then driven around in her Lincoln Town Car. She was released within yards of her house about 24 hours later.
The reward had been set at $2,000 in the days after the incident. The money for the larger reward will come from the Ripken family and Ripken Baseball, a family-run marketing and sales company that owns their hometown Aberdeen IronBirds and other baseball properties.
On Thursday, Ripken wondered aloud whether he should have offered the reward sooner, but he said he wanted to let investigators do their jobs unimpeded. With the perpetrator still at large, Ripken said, his family hopes the reward will get the case back on track.
"This might not be the first time he did it, and we want to make sure it's his last," said Ripken, 52.
Law enforcement officials, along with John Walsh, host of the long-running "America's Most Wanted" television show, joined the Hall of Fame infielder at the news conference at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. Walsh pledged the help of his show's tip line and website, and he guaranteed anonymity for informants.
Ripken said his "strong-willed" mother is adamant about living a normal life, though she was traumatized by the experience.
"She's more cautious, she's more careful. Her decisions are not as easy," he said.
Soon after the incident, police circulated an image of the kidnapper wearing a baseball cap that was caught on surveillance footage at a Glen Burnie Walmart. Lt. Fred Budnick, an Aberdeen police spokesman, said his agency received dozens of leads but no recent information.
"We have nothing new on a motive, and it's still an active investigation," Budnick said. "It's a troubling case."
The FBI has made available its databases and crime labs while also publicizing the case on its website, said Agent Richard Wolf, a spokesman for the Baltimore field office. Local agents are assisting in the case, which he said has been shared with agents in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in case the suspect was there.
Walsh, 67, said he thinks the kidnapper was a professional burglar who stumbled upon Vi Ripken during a break-in. He speculated that the man might be someone who cases homes from city to city, burglarizing a handful and moving on.
Walsh said he had no direct knowledge of the case. His 23-year show is off the air, but he said he is negotiating a return.
Walsh said he has known Cal Ripken for years because of their involvement with children's groups and programs that advocate for better checks on coaches and others who work with kids. He said the website of "America's Most Wanted" will feature the Ripken case prominently.
While most people would call in tips without a reward, Walsh said, the $100,000 is aimed at encouraging the "criminal element" to "drop a dime on this guy."
Ripken appeared with his sleeves rolled up and a pink tie loosely pulled up to his collar. He was somber as he discussed the past year's "difficult emotional ride."
He said he takes more safety precautions but does his best to keep the crime out of his mind.
Last week, in an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Vi Ripken said she is working to strike the right balance between vigilance and fear.
"I didn't want to go and hide," Ripken said during a game at the Aberdeen IronBirds stadium that bears her family's name. "I felt like if I keep away from things, it's not going to be very fun for me. I just had to face it."
Anyone with information can call the "America's Most Wanted" hot line at 1-800-CRIME-TV or the FBI at 410-265-8080.
Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun