Mary Strong made certain she walked her 6-year-old daughter, Destiny, to the school bus stop Monday morning.
After a man tried to grab Destiny's 7-year-old playmate at the Oak Trail Apartments on Sunday, Strong wasn't taking any chances.
"She won't be playing outside by herself anymore," said Strong, who was in her apartment when the attempted abduction occurred. "Everybody is on alert now. I never worried before. This is a safe place. Or so I thought."
Strong and other parents at the complex are on the lookout for a man driving an older-model, brown pickup truck with a large, happy face sticker on the front window and an alien sticker on the rear bumper.
Strong's daughter was playing with her friend near the playground on Sunday afternoon when the man pulled up alongside them.
The man stepped out of the truck and said to Destiny's friend, " "Come here, little one. I'm not going to hurt you,' " Strong said.
The girl grabbed Destiny by the hand and ran toward Strong's apartment. The man, described as between 25 and 40 years old with short, curly brown hair and a pale complexion, chased them, Strong said. The girls made it safely inside, and the man sped off in his truck, she said.
Authorities are taking the incident seriously and have no reason to doubt the 7-year-old girl's story, sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said. The child was crying when she burst through Strong's door. Both girls got a good look at the man and his truck.
"Perhaps this was someone's idea of a joke, but it's not a good one," Powers said. "We have alerted the apartment managers to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and this vehicle in particular."
On Monday, Strong went to the bus stop with her daughter to make sure other parents were aware of what had happened. The complex is always filled with small children and teenagers, she said.
She reminded her daughter not to talk to strangers in the complex. If anyone tried to grab her, Strong told her daughter to "yell and scream and make a big fuss and run to the nearest apartment."
"All the kids are pretty shook up over this," she said. "I know they didn't sleep much last night and neither did I."
After 9-year-old Sharra Ferger was killed in Blanton last month, Strong said many parents became more cautious with their children. When an arrest was made in the killing two weeks later, she said many parents relaxed.
"You have to always be on alert," she said. "You can't ever let them out of your sight. I hate to think what could have happened here."