An unplanned trip for Ironton teen

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

A young man from Ironton went on one of the scariest drives of his life Saturday afternoon.

At 12:15 p.m., an unidentified man entered Weber's Florist at 1501 S. Sixth St. where Ironton resident Tommy Lutz, 18, was working, Capt. Chris Bowman, a detective with the Ironton Police Department, said. The man asked if someone could jump-start his car.

Lutz obtained the keys to a co-worker's blue Ford pickup. When he went outside with the man, Lutz said he kept changing his story, making him feel threatened and uncomfortable. He said he never saw a weapon and the man did not tell him that he had a weapon. When the man asked him to take him on a trip around the corner,

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however, Lutz complied.

When they were in the truck, the man asked him to drive to Columbus.

"All kinds of stuff was

running through my mind," Lutz said. "It was like one of those things you see on Dateline. I even tried to speed on purpose so I would be stopped by the police."

The man never told Lutz his name, he said. He said they did make casual conversation on the drive, but for the most part, the trip was in silence.

Lutz dropped the man off in Columbus and then he said he tried to call his family. He couldn't get through, so he drove back to the Ironton police station. He arrived unharmed at 5:45 p.m., Bowman said.

"I am absolutely thrilled," said Joe Lutz, Tommy's father. "Not many of these stories have a happy ending. I'm going to have a talk with Tommy and my other son tonight about how to avoid these situations.

"The man needed help, and Tommy's a good kid."

Bowman said the police are treating the matter as a possible abduction. The case will be turned over to the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office this week. The Columbus authorities have been contacted about the man that Lutz described as thin, short and having dark skin and long, stringy dark hair.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol, the prosecutor's office and the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department also were involved in the search.

When Tommy arrived home, he was greeted by practically the entire neighborhood, Joe Lutz said.

"The outpour was amazing," Bowman said. "We received numerous calls from people offering help in our search. The mayor, council members, the prosecutor, the sheriff and others all took a personal interest in this. The state patrol was even making arrangements to search by air.

"I would like to thank all of the citizens of Ironton." Tommy Lutz, meanwhile, is thankful for something else.

"I'm safe, I'm alive, and all of that," he said. "I'm just relieved to be back home." Amelia Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune