PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) - Pflugerville police said the man they arrested in the attempted kidnapping earlier this week confessed to other attempts dating back to December.
After numerous tips from the community and help from outside agencies, Pflugerville police arrested Justin Michael Johnson, 23, on Thursday night.
They said the Hutto man, who has no criminal history, tried to kidnap two young girls Wednesday morning -- spurring the investigation into other incidents in the area dating back to December.
After Johnson confessed only to Wednesday's incident amid a lengthy police interview, officials announced early Friday morning that he admitted to other attempted kidnapping cases uncovered since December 2012.
When authorities questioned Johnson, he said he shaved his beard and stopped driving his red truck -- parking it in spots other than his home -- due to all of the media attention regarding the situation.
Johnson lives just three miles from where these attempted kidnappings have happened.
Police recognized the crucial role the community played in arresting Johnson. Investigators said they got tips from throughout the area and even from as far as Houston.
Officials said people were on high alert, looking out for Johnson and trying to spot his red truck. Investigators said they followed every tip possible, which led to Johnson's arrest.
Brishetta King, lives in the same neighborhood as Johnson, and just last week she reported seeing suspicious activity near a red truck parked down the street.
"I saw the vehicle parked over there and I saw a kid getting in and get out," said Johnson. "We just called in said that we saw a suspicious car parked down the street picking up a young man he had to be in middle school."
King also runs a daycare out of her home, and warned neighbors to keep a closer eye on their kids. She was shocked to find out that Johnson lived just right around the corner.
Meanwhile, Johnson has been charged with two counts of attempted aggravated kidnapping and is being held on $300,000 bond.
IN-DEPTH: Timeline of previous incidents
- Dec. 18, 2012 at 6 p.m.: report to Travis County Sheriff's Office of a man grabbing a girl in the Greenbelt area off of Spiedel Drive
- Dec. 18, 2012 at 7 p.m.: report to the Travis County Sheriff's Office from a citizen who saw a man fitting the description of the man who ran off of the hike-and-bike trail near Farm Pond Lane
- Feb. 1 at 3:18 p.m.: Pflugerville police respond to a suspicious circumstances case where a man cursed at children.
- Feb. 13 at 7:15 a.m.: Two girls are approached on the hike-and-bike trail in the 2500 block of Quiet Water Pass, where one was grabbed and the man tried to restrain the other. The girls ran away to the school and reported the incident.
- Feb. 13 at 9:20 p.m.: A parent and child are at Target when the child spots the man matching the description. Parent calls PPD.
- Feb. 14: Email and phone call tips, including photographs of a suspicious truck are given to PPD
- Feb. 14: Kelly Lane Middle School video of Feb. 13 morning shows the same car as described in tips driving in the area before the attempted kidnapping.
- Feb. 14 during the late afternoon: Investigators contact Johnson at his home, and he voluntarily goes in for an interview. Johnson reportedly confesses to all incidents later that night. Search warrants executed on his truck and home.
Police released a second sketch of the suspect on Thursday morning
Pflugerville police on Thursday issued new sketches of the man they say is targeting girls between the ages of 8 and 11.
One shows him with a mustache and goatee; the other shows him clean-shaven.
On Wednesday, PPD received a call at 7:15 a.m. of an attempting kidnapping on the hike-and-bike trail in the Falcon Pointe neighborhood in the 2500 block of Quiet Water Pass. The two students, girls ages 9 and 10, were on their way to Murchison Elementary School.
"The male subject grabbed the older female by the shoulder, she screamed and the other female screamed," explained Lt. Laura Wilkes. "Then he cupped his hand over the mouth of the older juvenile female and tried to restrain her, but she broke free and both girls ran away from the scene."
The girls ran to their school and immediately told staff members what happened.
"Those girls did the most responsible thing: to scream, to get help, and they ran as hard as they could," said Wilkes.
Around the same time, a school official who was at his home at the time, saw a man running away from the hike-and-bike trail and climbing into a red truck.
Police said they believe Wednesday's attempted kidnapping is the fourth time the man has been spotted.
"From the December incident to now, he's [suspect] accelerating," said Wilkes. "At first it was conversation, then touching, now this and it's all within a three mile area."
Police said they are searching their sex offender database to see if there are any similar matches.
"We have interviewed and eliminated known suspects
who may be close to the area," said Lt. Wilkes. "We spoke to a couple of them and eliminated them."
Pflugerville Police are also following up with new leads from people in the community. John Baker lives in the neighborhood where the latest incident took place. He says the community is now banning together to catch the predator.
"That's really the key to these things is some kind of community watch program where people watch out for each other whether its burglars or this," said Baker.
Although the incident happened off campus, the school district said it is taking the situation very serious and will have additional security measures in place to ensure the safety of their students. They also alerted parents to an increased police presence while the situation is under investigation.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
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