The family that staged a terrifying hoax kidnapping to teach a 6-year-old boy to beware of strangers was doing so out of an "intense and sincere love for the child," a lawyer for two of the suspects says, though he admits that their judgment was "extremely poor." The lawyer, who represents the boy's grandmother as well as alleged kidnapper Nathan Firoved (though he'll be withdrawing as Firoved's lawyer), tells the Guardian that the family felt the boy was far too trusting of strangers and had the "desire to protect him from others by teaching him to protect himself." He tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the boy sometimes went off with strangers after school. "Many efforts had been made before to teach this child not to talk with strange men or go off with them. Nothing had worked," he says, adding that the boy's mother and grandmother were "scared out of their minds for the safety of the child."
Cops say Firoved, a colleague of the boy's aunt, put him through a hellish four-hour ordeal during which he was bound, blindfolded, and told he would be sold into "sex slavery" and never see his family again. The public information officer for the sheriff's office in Lincoln County, Mo., tells the Guardian that he has never encountered a case like it—but it brought back memories of when he was kidnapped and held at knifepoint as a child in 1978. To go through that horror "and then the idea in the back of my head that this was orchestrated by my family—it would be catastrophic. It brought back some feelings; they were more of anger than of sorrow, just because I remember what I went through," he says. Firoved, the aunt, the grandmother, and the boy's mother are still in jail on felony kidnapping and child neglect charges, and the boy has been removed from the home by state authorities, NBC reports. Click for more on what the boy went through. (Read more kidnapping stories.)