by: Lee Stoll Updated:
Bellingham, Wash. - The mother of a kidnapped girl is furious the man suspected of taking her was set free--less than 24 hours after being caught. "This is the scariest thing I can imagine," said Veronica Damon.
Bellingham police say 35-year-old Matthew Pemberton was at a flea market this weekend playing with Veronica's 5-year-old daughter Shelby. Veronica said she turned around to see Pemberton driving away with the little girl. "I ran toward the direction I was told the car went. I got within 50 feet of the car and the light changed and I knew my daughter was driving off with a stranger," said Damon.
Police say Pemberton promised the child he had candy in the van and was taking her to a park to play, He returned to the market a few minutes later with Shelby unharmed in the front seat. Pemberton was immediately arrested. He was allowed to post a $100,000 bail Sunday afternoon. Police and Veronica were not notified. "How does a judge decide that that's OK? And you can go ahead and go. What if he was just practicing with my child?" said Damon.
Court records show Pemberton was charged with ordering a child porn DVD in 2008. Prosecutors later reduced the charge to a non-sex offense. Now, police want to know everything about him. They've searched his car and home. "This was too well-orchestrated to think he hasn't planned this out or practiced this before," said Bellingham police officer Rick Sucee.
KIRO-7 talked to Pemberton's mother, who said her son does not behave like most adults and would never hurt a child. "His IQ is 67-69 so it's a little difficult to figure it all out," said Carol Pemberton.