The suspect in the abduction of Violet R. Ripken from her Aberdeen home stopped at a Middle River Walmart the day after the July incident and may have had a brief encounter with the driver of a dark green minivan, Aberdeen Police Lt. Fred Budnick said Monday.
Police are asking the driver of the van, which appears to be a Dodge Caravan with stickers on the driver and passenger side back windows, to contact them with any information. Budnick said the driver is not a suspect but perhaps a witness.
The suspect visited the Walmart in the 100 block of Carroll Island Road on July 26, police said.
Police released photos of the van in the Walmart parking lot along with three new enhanced images of the suspect dressed in sunglasses, a white short-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, dark pants and a red, white and dark-colored cap.
"The investigators are still putting a lot of time into the investigation," Budnick said. "We're a little frustrated. We thought initially the still shots [released earlier] were of a quality that someone would say, 'That's Joe Smith.' "
The suspect is a white man in his mid-30s to mid-40s with short brown hair. He stands 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds.
Ripken, known as "Vi," is the mother of Cal Ripken Jr., the famed Orioles shortstop, and was married to the late Cal Ripken Sr., a former manager of the team. She was abducted at gunpoint from her house the morning of July 24. The suspect drove her around Central Maryland, bound in the back seat of her 1998 Lincoln Town Car, and dropped her off, unharmed, about 24 hours later within walking distance of her home.
Budnick said the case remains an active investigation, so he would not discuss why the suspect visited the Middle River store or whether he purchased anything. Budnick also would not provide more specific details about the encounter with the minivan driver, or what vehicle the suspect may have driven to the Walmart.
Shortly after the abduction, police released images of the suspect at the Walmart in the 6700 block of Chesapeake Center Drive in Glen Burnie on the night of the crime. Those pictures show the suspect in a long-sleeved white shirt, glasses and an orange, black and white cap.
Budnick said investigators tracked down all the previous tips and hope the new images can generate fresh leads. Police decided to release the images Monday after having obtained them in the weeks after the abduction.
A spokesman for the Ripkens said the family hopes the release of the images helps the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Aberdeen Police Department at 410-272-2121.
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