BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man arrested on suspicion of two attempted abductions now faces charges of kidnapping a toddler from the Fred Meyer store on West Bakerview Road, where he works.
Police believe Jake J. Unick, 27, led the girl from the store the evening of March 4, after she became separated from her parents. Unick wasn't working at the time.
Moments after an alert was issued, Unick came inside and delivered the girl to another employee, said Bellingham police spokesman Mark Young. Unick claimed he had found the girl outside, apparently lost.
But according to police, security footage showed him leading the girl, hand-in-hand, past the customer service desk and past the bay doors of the grocery store.
The girl's parents didn't know Unick.
As detectives interviewed him, they realized that he matched the description of a man wanted in two other recent attempted abductions from March 1, near Bellis Fair, Young said.
In the first case, a stranger ordered a 13-year-old to come with him at 8:20 a.m. while she waited for a school bus in the 700 block of West Bakerview Road, Young said. She refused, so the suspect - a thin white man in his 20s, wearing jeans, a black hoodie and glasses with dark rims - punched her in the face. Then he pulled out a spray bottle and sprayed something in the girl's eyes, according to police. Authorities have not said what was sprayed.
The girl ran home to tell her parents. By the time officers responded, the man was gone.
Eleven hours later, a 24-year-old woman told officers that a man wearing glasses grabbed her arm from behind as she walked on the sidewalk in the 4100 block of Aldrich Road. She screamed when he told her to come with him. He sprayed her in the face, too, then ran toward West Bakerview Road, Young said. Police dogs couldn't find him.
All three incidents occurred within a radius of about a half mile.
Unick agreed to go to the police station Thursday, March 7, to speak with investigators, following the advice of his attorney. Police arrested him on suspicion of two counts of attempted kidnapping, one count of kidnapping and two counts of fourth-degree assault.
Friends of Unick, a former high school wrestler in Ferndale, said it didn't sound like the Jake they knew. Matt Bergh, a wrestling teammate for many years, said he knew Unick suffered from mental illness since birth, but that he was a "great teammate and a great person to be around."
"This comes (as) a complete shock to many of us who knew him," Bergh said. "Something has obviously changed him to do the things he did."
Unick has no felony convictions in Washington. His first appearance in court was canceled at the last minute Friday afternoon. It's tentatively scheduled for early next week.