Cal Ripken’s mom, Vi Ripken, abducted at gunpoint
Vi Ripken, the mother of MLB star Cal Ripken, was found with her hands tied in the backseat of her car on Wednesday after saying that she was kidnapped at gunpoint a day earlier at her home just outside Baltimore.
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert said that investigators of the case do not know the motive of the abductors and there was no ransom demand as well for the release of Vi Ripken.
Reports said that the gunmen forced Vi Ripken into her silver Lincoln Continental between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., Tuesday. She was subsequently found unharmed and tied, but shaken about 6:15 in the morning of Wednesday near her home in Aberdeen, about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore. Trabert did not answer when he was asked if the police believe that the abductor knew who he was kidnapping, saying that investigators did not know the motive or if the suspect has any connection with the Ripken family.
A next door neighbor named Gus Kowalewski said that he spoke to Vi Ripken later Wednesday morning, and she told him that the suspect bound her hands and put a blindfold in her eyes, but gave her an assurance that he will not hurt her.
“He lit cigarettes for her, they stopped for food,” Kowalewski said, recalling the incident told by Vi Ripken. “He said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to take you back,’ and that’s what he did.”
Kowalewski added Ripken told him the kidnapper initially planned to put tape over her eyes instead of using a blindfold.
“But he didn’t do that because she said ‘please don’t do that ’cause I’m claustrophobic,’” said Kowalewski, a 72-year-old retired autoworker.
Vi Ripken also told her neighbor that the gunman did not appear to know she was part of the Ripken family, who is well-known to baseball fans and throughout the Baltimore area where they reside.
“He said he just wanted money and her car,” Kowalewski said.
Three years after putting an end to his “Iron Man” streak voluntarily, Cal Ripken Jr. decided to retire in 2001. Ripken Jr. is the founder and chairman of Ripken Baseball Inc., which he runs alongside his brother, Bill. Cal Ripken is also the owner of three minor-league baseball teams, which includes the Single A IronBirds based at the Ripken Baseball complex in Aberdeen. Kowalewski said Vi Ripken told him the suspect asked her about Ironbirds-related items in her car and did not appear to know about the team.
“This has been a very trying time for our family, but we are grateful and relieved that mom is back with us, safe and healthy,” the Ripken family said in a statement. “We want to thank everyone for their tremendous support, especially all of the law enforcement agencies that worked so hard and quickly.”
Investigators confirmed that Vi Ripken was missing on Tuesday night after talking to Baltimore County Police, who gave a notification to the media about her disappearance shortly before she was found.
Authorities in Aberdeen have asked Baltimore County Police to refrain from releasing its 911 tapes because the investigation is still ongoing. Police also declined comments whether Ripken’s credit or ATM cards had been used by the gunman.
Vi Ripken described her kidnapper as a tall, thin white man with glasses wearing camouflage clothing. The Maryland State Police and FBI were also involved in the investigation.
Kowalewski said that after the kidnapper left, Vi Ripken blew her car’s horn until a neighbor found her.
He added that he was surprised the honking of the car didn’t rouse him up. Somebody reported a suspicious vehicle to authorities and that was when she was found.
Vi Ripken is the founding chairwoman of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which, according to its website, helps in building character for disadvantaged young people. Aside from Bill and Cal Ripken, she has another daughter and a son.
The Ripken Baseball complex is also home to the annual Cal Ripken World Series for 11- and 12-year-olds. Cal Ripken Baseball is the name for the 5-to-12-year-old division of the Babe Ruth League. The business empire of the Ripken family also includes a minor-league stadium design, youth baseball camps and clinics, a merchandising arm and a charitable foundation. Although Cal Ripken has no formal role with the Orioles, he has spoken about his desire to return to the team.