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Illinois Girl Taken From School at Gunpoint Found in Washington State

September 13, 1995

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) _ John Moro tired to think of everything, police said, when snatching his daughter at gunpoint from a classroom: a phony driver’s license, a bit of survival training, and an escape to a rural area thousands of miles away.

What Moro didn’t count on was a vigilant police officer in a small Washington town taking a closer look Tuesday at a car with a Nebraska license plate. Within hours, a two-week nightmare was over: Moro was in custody, and 7-year-old Demetria was safe.

``The arrest occurred so quickly that he had no options,″ FBI special agent Ron Bratcher said at a news conference here in the Jackson County seat announcing Moro’s capture.

Police in Ellensburg, Wash. _ population about 12,000 _ got credit for breaking the case.

An officer performing routine security checks spotted the 1978 gray Pontiac Trans Am that authorities nationwide have been looking for since the Aug. 28 abduction, said Jackson County State’s Attorney Mike Wepsiec. Moro, who is divorced from the girl’s mother, does not have custody.

``You run thousands and thousands of plates in your lifetime, and maybe you only get one or two hits, but that’s what you’re out there to do,″ said Jackson County Sheriff Bill Kilquist.

After Moro and the girl got into the car, police pulled it over and Moro was arrested without incident. A pistol was found in the vehicle, Wepsiec said.

Moro, 34, of Centralia, was being held in the Kittitas County Jail in Washington state on charges of aggravated kidnapping.

Moro and Demetria had been living in a rented apartment for about a week in Ellensburg, 100 miles southeast of Seattle, Police Sgt. Bob Richey said from Ellensburg on Tuesday. Moro had no relatives or contacts in town but apparently planned to live there, he said.

The girl’s mother and stepfather left Tuesday night for St. Louis to catch a plane for Washington.

Jill Williams, cousin of Demetria’s stepfather, Ernest Kurtz, said the FBI called the family with the good news.

``We cried and screamed and hugged each other,″ Williams said.

Moro and the girl’s mother, Kelly Kurtz of Carbondale, divorced last year after 12 years of marriage and Mrs. Kurtz got custody.

Authorities say Moro barged into his daughter’s third-grade classroom, threatened her teacher and other students with a gun and dragged Demetria off crying and screaming.

At the time of the kidnapping, he had been barred from having unsupervised contact with his daughter. Authorities have not said why.

Moro planned the kidnapping months in advance, authorities said. He purchased the Pontiac using the alias of Jeffrey Lock in Omaha, Neb., and obtained a Nebraska license under that name, Wepsiec said.

A survivalist manual was found in a car abandoned shortly after the kidnapping, leading police to believe Moro ``was learning how to survive in the wild with little or no abilities,″ the prosecutor said.

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