Astonishingly, every year in America, over 58,000 children are kidnapped by strangers. Sadly, this was the case for little Jocelyn Rojas. As luck would have it, though, two teenage boys from Pennsylvania saw the missing toddler in her abductor’s moving car. And they immediately knew that they had to try and save her.
On July 11, 2013, five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas was visiting her grandmother Tracey Clay in Lancaster Township, Pennsylvania. Clay lived on Jennings Drive and Rojas was playing in her front yard that afternoon. Then, at 4:35 p.m., a strange old man wearing unusual clothes and green shoes approached her.
The man lured her in by offering ice-cream and then pounced. Putting his hand around her delicate neck, he forced her into his vehicle. According to authorities, the man had said to her, “You’re pretty and I think I’m going to keep you.”
The poor young girl was with him for a hellish two hours. Later, she told police that he had threatened to kill her unless she got “naked.” The monster then drove to an unidentified location where he sexually assaulted her on the rear seat of his vehicle.
After the assault, the man carried on to an ice-cream parlor where he parked. The little girl wanted to go into the shop but decided to remain in the car after the man said she could only do so if she was naked. He then bought her some chocolate ice-cream and drove back towards her grandmother’s block.
Meanwhile, her family had sounded the alarm after they noticed Rojas was missing. Consequently, the community came together with 100 people helping out with the search. Police officers immediately put up barriers on the streets and searched the area with dog teams. Furthermore, they went door-to-door with a picture of Rojas to see if anyone had seen her.
Among the people to join the hunt for Rojas were two teenage boys, Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia. Both 15 at the time, the pair had seen the little girl’s photo and decided to help. By a stroke of fortune, they spotted a suspicious-looking maroon car and recognized the girl inside. That’s when the duo jumped onto two bikes and chased the vehicle for what must have been a breathless 15 minutes.
Aware that he was being tailed, the kidnapper finally stopped his car and set Rojas free before stepping on the gas and speeding away again. Scared, the little girl ran towards the high school students, crying out for her “mommy.”
Boggs immediately took the child and started to ride her back home, before handing her over to a firefighter. Her worried family were then informed of her safety. Naturally, they were overjoyed and grateful to the teenagers for their brave actions. Family members and neighbors queued up to praise Boggs, taking turns to hug and kiss him.
Rojas’ grandmother Tracey Clay couldn’t thank Boggs enough. “Thank you, you’re our hero,” she said as she embraced him. “You see the amber alerts and you think, ‘I feel for that family,’ but when you’re in that situation… oh my god, it’s horrible,” she told WGAL.
Boggs himself stayed humble, explaining to LancasterOnline, “I’m just a normal person who did a thing that anybody else would do.” His modesty was also in evidence when MSNBC came calling. “Chris [Garcia] feels the same way,” he said. “He did that out of heart, he didn’t do it to receive anything.”
The public was so grateful to the teenagers that an appeal to reward them was launched. Initiated on crowdfunding website Indiegogo, almost $20,000 was raised towards a college fund for the brave duo. If it wasn’t for their quick thinking, no one knows for sure what the man could’ve done next.
The next day, thanks to the teenagers’ and Rojas’ description of the kidnapper, a 73-year-old man was arrested. Identified as Harold Leroy Herr, it transpired that he was already a convicted rapist who had previously abducted another five-year-old girl back in 1989.
Answering charges relating to Rojas’ abduction and assault, Herr pled guilty in return for a lighter sentence. In court, he admitted to kidnapping, two counts of sexual assault and failing to register as a sex offender. He also had the audacity to speak out to Rojas’ family from the witness stand.
“I just hope and pray that it doesn’t have an effect on her mind,” the rapist said. “It was such a bad thing. She’s such an innocent child. I knew I did have problems, but no one came up with a solution to get help. I thought I could handle it, but I couldn’t,” he continued.
Rojas’ family was unmoved, with her mother Jaimee Smeal labeling him a coward. “He is the definition of evil,” she said. “I offer no forgiveness to Harold Herr. Instead I choose to forgive myself. Because as a mother I was unable to protect my daughter from the evil that was literally in our own backyard. After today, Harold Herr will forever be irrelevant to our family.”
Rojas’ father, meanwhile, was on the verge of tears. “You took something away from my baby girl she’ll never be able to get back,” he said. “My daughter acts funny around me now. It’s crazy what you did. You’d be better off if you killed yourself.”
But the person to have the last word was Rojas herself. She told the judge, “I want you to make him stop taking little kids.” And Judge Ashworth did exactly that, sentencing him to 50 to 100 years in state prison. In court, the judge made his feelings clear. “There are other things the father part of me would like to say that the judge part of me refrains from saying,” he said.
However, Rojas’ captor is not the only individual from this case who is in prison today. Sadly, one of the heroes behind her rescue, Temar Boggs, is now also behind bars. In summer 2016 the teenager was sentenced to 40 months to ten years for armed robbery.
Although it shows that heroes are still capable of committing crime, Boggs will always be remembered as the teen who saved little Jocelyn Rojas. And while she and her family will never forget the terror caused by Herr, thanks to Boggs and Garcia they can remember that they got through it and sent a monster away for the rest of his life.