Authorities Have Unconfirmed Sightings Of Teen Missing From Local Fair

WOOSTER, Ohio (AP) - A 14-year-old girl who disappeared Monday night from a county fairgrounds may have been spotted nearby since then, the sheriff said Friday.

Wayne County Sheriff Tom Maurer said there have been "multiple" reported sightings of Kristen Jackson close to the fairgrounds and one at a Wal-Mart north of the city. He said the reported sightings could not be immediately confirmed.

Investigators had not discovered any evidence the girl was abducted. Maurer would not comment Friday on whether he believed Kristen, who is active in her church youth group and the Northwestern High School band, is a runaway.

The teen was last seen about 8:45 p.m. Monday walking toward the main gate of the Wayne County Fairgrounds to meet her mother. Until then, she had been with friends.

Late Thursday afternoon, state troopers searched roads around the fairgrounds by helicopter, in case she had been hit by a car and might be lying in a ditch.

Sheriff's deputies and FBI agents searched about 30 parked campers that house mostly exhibitors and food stand operators, said sheriff's Capt. Doug Hunter. The searches were conducted with the occupants' cooperation. Agents visited about 140 campers, but most owners weren't there.

They also interviewed ride workers and walked the most likely route Kristen would have taken home from the fairgrounds in Wooster, about 50 miles southwest of Cleveland.

Bates Brothers Amusement Co. of Wintersville provided the fair's carnival rides.

Co-owner Kim Bates-Bozich said she told authorities it is unlikely a 14-year-old girl could be among the 80 or so carnival workers. She said she doesn't hire anybody younger than 18, and her employees have ID badges.

The FBI also was examining the family's computer, and an analysis was expected to be completed Friday. Maurer said there was no indication authorities would find any clues from Kristen's online correspondence but were checking the computer as a precaution.

Volunteers from her church and school have distributed several thousand missing-person fliers.

The girl was wearing her brown hair in a ponytail and had on dark jeans, a purple Guess T-shirt and dark blue Skechers brand tennis shoes. She may have been wearing a choker necklace with pink, yellow and pale blue shells.

Area businesses and individuals have established a $40,000 reward for information leading to her recovery.

Mark Jackson, the girl's father, said his daughter is "a good, responsible young lady. She's churchgoing and loves her youth group and loves her church."

Joe Rubino, a youth-group minister at the girl's church, said others she was with at the fair were concerned that she "just seemed to disappear, and that's scary."

Barbara Gatz, a Jackson family friend, described Kristen as shy and quiet and mother Sharon Jackson as "one of the most attentive mothers I have ever seen."

Kristen was at the fair Monday with her 16-year-old sister, Katie, who had their mother's cell phone, Gatz said. Kristen apparently separated from her sister and the rest of the group with another friend, then left that girl to walk toward the main gate where her mother was waiting, Gatz said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)