Woman retracts mall abduction story

April 4, 2019

BARBOURSVILLE — A woman who accused a man of attempting to abduct her child Monday evening at the Huntington Mall told police she overreacted to the situation, Barboursville police said during a news conference Tuesday at the Barboursville Police Department.

Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan, 54, of Alexandria, Egypt, was arraigned Monday night in Cabell County Magistrate Court on a felony charge of attempted abduction. He was released on bond from Western Regional Jail around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Cabell County Magistrate Court, a woman was shopping with her 5-year-old daughter at the mall when a man grabbed the girl by the hair and tried to pull her away.

The woman told police she pulled a firearm and the suspect fled the scene. He was later detained in the food court area and arrested based on statements from the female witness and her child.

Sgt. Anthony Jividen said the mother was questioned multiple times and investigation revealed several inconsistencies in her

story. On Tuesday, detectives continued the investigation in the store where the alleged incident occurred and could not find additional witnesses. Video surveillance also revealed several inconsistencies with the original statement — police said the video does not show the encounter, but it does show peripheral evidence in the area.

Jividen delivered the following statement at the news conference:

“The female witness, mother of the child, eventually told detectives that she might have misjudged the suspect’s actions, overreacted to the uninvited touching of her daughter and misinterpreted the intentions of the male suspect. The female witness also stated that the more she thought about it, the more she realized she might have had a cultural misunderstanding and the suspect might have just been patting her daughter on the head and smiling.”

Police said it is up to the Cabell County prosecutor to decide whether the woman will face charges.

The prosecutor also will have to decide what, if any, charges the man accused will now face, since police say there was “unwanted touching” of the child, possible grounds for a battery charge.

Jividen said the mall’s firearm policy is unclear, stating that some doors say no guns are permitted on the premises, while other doors do not. Mall security declined to comment on the policy.

Jividen also said it is unclear whether or not a firearm was actually brandished.

“We will continue to look into all aspects, but at this point most of this investigation is now in the hands of the prosecutor,” Jividen said. “I think we have resolved all the facts of the incident. The charges going forward will be in his hands.”

Jividen said in his 30 years in the department, no actual child abductions have been reported or investigated.

Reporter Travis Crum contributed to this report. Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Twitter and Facebook @megosborneHD.