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Family speaks out about possible kidnapping attempt in Missoula

Family speaks out about possible kidnapping attempt in Missoula. PHOTO NBC MONTANA{p}{/p}
Family speaks out about possible kidnapping attempt in Missoula. PHOTO NBC MONTANA

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It was just another day shopping for furniture for Zach Nicodemous and Hailey Gazella when they noticed someone strange approach their truck Saturday in Missoula.

“While I was in the process of doing that, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the woman standing across the street,” Nicodemous said.

Nicodemous didn't think too much of the woman until she approached their truck.

“She said that she missed her baby,” Gazella said. “I had asked her like, ‘Where is your baby?’ She said she didn't know. She asked how old my baby was, and I told her. She asked to hold him, and I told her no. She seemed to get a bit agitated.”

The couple says that’s when the woman, later identified as Rhonda Hiner, told Gazella, “I need your baby,” and attempted to grab the infant from Gazella.

“I said, ‘You need to back off the truck,’ and the woman goes, ‘No, that's my baby,’ so at that point I kind of make it known to the woman that I’m armed. I pretty much always carry a handgun,” Nicodemous said.

Nicodemous says Hiner then stood across the street yelling, ‘That's my baby,’ until police arrived.

Missoula police detained Hiner and charged her with trespassing but did not arrest her.

“What we found out is that approximately 90 minutes after our interaction she approached a woman and her daughter playing in their yard about two blocks away from the Donation Warehouse and made similar threatening actions towards them,” Nicodemous said.

We asked police for more information about why Hiner wasn’t arrested.

“As a police department, we have to stick within our lawful scope, and we work from Montana Code Annotated, and the elements of kidnapping were not met,” public information officer Lydia Arnold said. “This situation impacted this family and probably impacted their perspective of Missoula and sense of safety. As parents, our children's safety is top priority, and to have someone make a parent feel like their child is not safe will have lasting impressions.”

The family is disappointed and feels a sense of anxiety since Hiner will only be facing a misdemeanor criminal trespass from the incident.

They hope Hiner can get the help she needs to be a safe member of society, but they also would like to see a change made to the law so if in an incident like this happens again the person can be charged with attempted kidnapping.

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