A man charged and arrested by Altoona police after a 13-year-old Altoona girl said she was accosted on her way to school has an alibi and passed a voice-based lie detector test, the girl's mother said.
The mother also said she doesn't believe whoever did attack her daughter was trying to kidnap the girl, only snatch her purse.
Police arrested registered sex offender Brian Lawrence, 23, of 1401 Washington Ave. on Tuesday afternoon on attempted kidnapping, simple assault and failing to comply with the registration requirements of Megan's Law.
The arrest came after police said the girl told school officials a man tried to abduct her on the 1700 block of Seventh Avenue at about 7:30 a.m. that morning.
By late Tuesday, police had downgraded Lawrence's status to "a person of interest" but because of an alleged state parole and probation violation, Lawrence was jailed. The charges remained filed before Magisterial District Judge Todd F. Kelly until they were withdrawn Wednesday afternoon by the Blair County District Attorney's Office.
The girl's mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her child's identity, said she dropped her daughter off at 19th Street at about 6:50 a.m. so her daughter could walk to school with a friend. When the friend wasn't ready, the 13-year-old Altoona Area Junior High student began walking to school alone.
"A black male approached her and tried to take her purse," the mother of the girl said, noting when the man, who had a hood pulled over his head, "jerked on her purse. She jerked back."
"She punched him in the face and took off across 17th Street," the mother said, adding she believed the incident occurred about 7 a.m., not 7:30. as police had said.
The girl's mother said police showed her daughter photos twice and the first time she wasn't sure, prompting her mom to tell her to take her time so she was certain. On the second photo line-up, the girl pointed out Lawrence.
"I think she just wanted it to be over," the girl's mom said, adding it was hard to distinguish the men in the photos from one another.
"The pictures they showed her all looked alike," the mother said, adding that on Wednesday she learned from Altoona police Detective Matthew Starr that Lawrence's alibi checked out and that he passed a voice stress analysis test, which used by police in questioning to measure whether a person is telling the truth.
Lawrence's mother, Tajuanda Christman, said she also learned her son passed a voice stress analysis test and said her son was baby-sitting for a relative at the time of the incident.
She said her son isn't an aggressive person and has stayed out of trouble since he got out of jail after pleading guilty to burglary and indecent assault charges stemming from a 2009 incident at the Fairview Hills apartment complex, where a woman claimed Lawrence sexually assaulted her. His mother said that case, too, was not as it seemed.
In regards to the incident on Tuesday, she said her son simply didn't do it.
"He's just big and black and that's the thing that makes him a suspect," Tajuanda Christman said.
Brian Lawrence Sr. said he's upset that police seemed to have zeroed in on his son as a suspect without investigating the facts of the case.
"They need to do their job before they start prosecuting someone for a crime they didn't commit," Brian Lawrence Sr. said, adding that his son was on his way to meet his parole officer when he was arrested by Altoona police and has complied with his Megan's Law registration requirement.
Several calls to Altoona police about the case were not returned Wednesday, but Assistant District Attorney Dan Kiss did confirm charges were dropped and that Lawrence remains a person of interest.
"He absolutely remains a person of interest," Kiss said, noting police were following leads "in a couple of directions" and more work was needed before any charges could go forward.
"Obviously, there is a lot of people involved in this case and a lot of interviewing needs to be done," Kiss said, deferring more specific questions about the case to police.
The girl at the center of the incident attended school Wednesday, her mother said.
"She's shook up," the mother said.
The mother said she hopes police find the person who attacked her daughter, whoever it may be.
"I don't want to see someone jailed for something they didn't do," she said.
The girl's mother also said she's upset with the school district that her daughter isn't eligible to ride a bus, although she said the family lives in the area of 10th Street and 24th Avenue, far enough she drives the girl to school.
"Now that this happened, I'm picking her up in front of the school and dropping her off in front of the school," the mother said.