CRIME

Layton mom pleads for 13-year-old son’s safe return

Dec 27, 2022, 10:54 PM | Updated: Dec 28, 2022, 6:01 pm

LAYTON, Utah — A mother pleaded Tuesday night for the safe return of her teenage son following a kidnapping that launched an Amber Alert.

On Tuesday afternoon, Layton City Police Department launched the alert to locate 13-year-old Evan McConney, whom detectives said was lured away by 26-year-old suspect Aaron Zeman of Arizona.

According to investigators, McConney exchanged messages with Zeman — who had apparently been going by the fake name of Hunter Fox — through an Oculus virtual reality device on Monday and then left his house before midnight Monday night to take off with Zeman.

The boy’s mom, Heather McConney, told KSL TV the situation began weeks earlier when she discovered her son had been communicating with a stranger via the online game Roblox.

“I opened his phone up, and that’s kind of where I stumbled upon conversations, and it just kind of turned into a rabbit hole,” the mother explained. “We took all means away that we knew.”

McConney said her family handed over the device to Layton police detectives, and investigators were looking into who the stranger was. Still, she said she did not believe her son was at any risk of being lured away by the man.

She said the family had just returned home from a holiday vacation Monday before she and other family members woke up Tuesday morning to discover Evan was gone.

“They were all in a great place, and this person convinced him it was time to go,” said family friend Beth Cooper.

McConney grew emotional when talking about her son leaving with the man.

“I don’t understand what this person had on my son, what grasp he had on him that convinced him to just walk away,” she said as she lowered her head to her hands and sobbed.

Neither the family nor detectives went into specifics of what was allegedly discussed between the 13-year-old boy and Zeman.

“The communication they’d had was of a nature that is very concerning to us,” explained Lt. Travis Lyman with the Layton Police Department.

Late Tuesday, police officially identified the suspect as Zeman, who goes by the alias Tadashi Kojima. They said he was driving a white 1998 Toyota Avalon with damage to the front grill and a temporary Arizona tag of 22225NP. Investigators previously said the two may be traveling to Arizona or possibly Texas.

They urged anyone with information to contact Layton City Police Department.

McConney said she didn’t want to speak the words she had for the stranger who took her boy, but she had a message for her son.

“Nobody’s mad at you,” McConney expressed. “We get it. We understand. We’re your family. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll always be here for you no matter what. Please come home.”

On Monday, both Zeman and McConney were found in Nebraska. The victim was found safe and sound.

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Layton mom pleads for 13-year-old son’s safe return