JOPLIN, Mo. — “She was right next to me, like right behind me and I was getting ready to turn and put her in her car seat because our van was parked close, and when I turned around, she was gone,” said Kaylee McGeehee.
It was McGeehee’s 5-year-old daughter who police say was grabbed from the street where she was playing as Third Thursday was wrapping up. McGeehee had a bounce house booth set up for the street festival and was tearing down when a man picked up her daughter and ran away – every parent’s worst nightmare.
“And then that’s when I heard her screaming, ‘Mommy!’ And I turned a little bit more and then looked up, and I saw him carrying her, taking off with her. And she was screaming, ‘That’s my mommy, that’s my mommy!’ and pointing at me. And he would not stop, he didn’t stop. And I screamed, ‘That’s my daughter!’ And at that moment, he turned his head and kind of turned his body with her. And I screamed at my husband, ‘Someone’s taking our daughter!’ as I’m running to her. And as soon as he sees myself and others running at him, he put her down,” McGeehee recalls.
A group of bystanders, people working booths and walking to their vehicles, saw what was happening and surrounded the man until officers arrived.
Police arrested Johnny Arehart. He is in the Joplin City Jail being held without bond. JPD is asking anyone who was there and who might have witnessed the incident to give them a call.
McGeehee offers a message to parents – as she and her family are still dealing with that fear and shock.
“Parents just need to make sure that they teach their children about stranger danger. You go to these family events, you think it’s safe to just let them run around, you know. But it’s sad, it’s not the world that we live in. It’s dangerous. And, you have to keep them close and watch them, and teach them what they need to do in those situations,” McGeehee says.
She also said she hopes Arehart is “put to justice,” for the sake of all area children.