McDonald's employee rescues girl from kidnapper

McDonald's employee rescues girl from kidnapper

Credit: KING

Richard Earl Knauss


by By / KING 5 News


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 4:51 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The mother of a young girl is calling a McDonald's employee a hero after she saved the girl from being kidnapped at the restaurant last month.

"Most people would have been like, 'Oh, that ain't my kid,'" said Sheila Brown.

Brown says she left her children - 8-year old Kasia and 10-year-old Devon -- at the Olympia library on Dec. 19 while she was moving the family from a homeless shelter in Tacoma to one in Olympia. The library closed early because of snow.

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The kids went to the Plum Street McDonalds and had to wait several hours for their mother who was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-5.

According to probable cause documents, Thurston County prosecutors say the children were standing at the front counter of the McDonald's.

That's when police say 46-year-old Richard Earl Knauss walked up to the children, grabbed the girl firmly on the shoulder and told her to go with him. Knauss allegedly said he knew the girl, but the child resisted him.

That's when the 18-year-old employee, Serenity LaChappelle, stepped in.

"She looked at me and she goes, 'I don't know him. I don't know him.' Really panicked, so I was like, 'Sir. She says she does not know you. Please don't touch her,'" said LaChappelle.

Serenity struggled with Knauss, but then was able to free the girl and pull her over the counter. LaChappelle then pulled the boy over the counter as well.

"People were like, 'Did you go over that in the manual to be working at McDonalds?' No," said LaChappelle.

Police say Knauss ran away, but was found a short time later. He initially denied any involvement and denied even being in the restaurant. He later admitted he was there.

Knauss has pleaded not guilty to second-degree kidnapping.

LaChappelle says she wants to be a firefighter in the future.

Police want to speak with anyone who saw what happened or has any other information about Richard Knauss.