Experts say suspect photo means Vi Ripken case will be solved

More than two weeks have passed since Violet R. Ripken's abduction, but experts believe the photograph of the suspect shopping at a local Walmart makes an arrest inevitable.

It is only a matter of time before those who recognize the slender mystery man pick up the phone and call police, said Philip Becnel, aWashington, D.C.-based private investigator. To expedite the process, police should considering raising the $2,000 reward, he said.


"There are absolutely people out there who know this guy," Becnel said. "What's happening now is, this guy's sister or other relatives are … saying, 'I know him.' Would you rat your brother or sister out for $2,000? Probably not. But you may do it for $10,000."

Aberdeen police Chief Henry Trabert — who is leading the investigation into the July 24 kidnapping of the mother of former Oriole


— said Thursday that he has not considered raising the reward. Trabert said he is confident in the course the investigation is taking.

The kidnapper hid in Ripken's garage and forced her at gunpoint into her 1998 Lincoln Town Car, according to authorities. She was tied up and driven around Central Maryland for nearly 24 hours before being dropped off near her Aberdeen house, unharmed, police said.

Police have released a 35-second video of the suspect inside an Anne Arundel County Walmart, as well as a digital image from the store and a composite sketch from witness accounts.

"The fact that it's been two weeks doesn't bother me too much, because we've had a lot of leads come in," Trabert said. "We're gathering leads as we speak. We are extremely busy. It is by no means at a standstill."

Trabert said police still don't know of a motive for the abduction, and he released no new details about the case, such as whether the suspect robbed Ripken or used her credit cards.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies continue to work together on the case, he said. The cooperation among agencies, including the Harford County Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police, is invaluable, he said.

Once the abduction was reported, police set up road patrols and searched certain locations, Trabert said, declining to elaborate. He said police are concentrating on technical aspects of the investigation and chasing down information generated from the public's tips, which have come from inside and outside Maryland.

Trabert urged the public to call police with any information.


Ripken, whose late husband,Cal Ripken Sr., was an Orioles manager, declined to talk about the ordeal with a reporter Wednesday, saying it was "too soon."

Last week,

said his mother was doing well. He said his mother did not have extended conversations with the kidnapper and was treated civilly.

Becnel, managing partner of Dinolt Becnel & Wells Investigative Group and author of "Principles of Investigative Documentation," said cases can become harder to solve as time passes, because crime-scene evidence degrades and memories grow fuzzy.

Besides the value of the photograph, Becnel said, police have an advantage in this case because details of the high-profile crime will likely stick in people's minds.

"I think the chances of the crime going cold ... are not too concerning, but it all hinges on whether they have the right suspect. If it turns out to be a person of interest and they clear him, then all bets are off," said Becnel, who is president of the Private Investigators Association of Virginia.


Trabert said he's confident the man pictured at the Walmart — in his mid-30s to mid-40s, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds — was involved in Ripken's kidnapping.

"I am sure eventually one of these leads is going to lead us to the suspect," Trabert said.