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Des Peres police question and release suspected serial hugger

Des Peres police question and release suspected serial hugger

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DES PERES • A man believed to have duped St. Louis-area women into giving him hugs was questioned by police Wednesday and released.

Police said they may seek charges against him this week.

Police say the man approached women in area stores and, pretending to know them from long ago, asked for a simple embrace. Later the hug-givers realized they were duped.

In one recent case, a woman called authorities June 12 and said she was approached by a man inside the Schnucks store at 12332 Manchester Road, according to Des Peres Police Capt. Charles Milano.

“He approached her in one of the aisles and asked her if she remembered him from the old neighborhood,” Milano said. “She tried to figure out if she knew him.”

The man gave the woman a last name that authorities believe is fake.

“He said, ‘Today is my birthday. Will you give me a hug?’” Milano said.

Milano said the woman gave the man a normal hug. But after going home and thinking about it, the woman called police.

There have been a few other such incidents at the Schnucks store recently, and similar cases in Wood River and Fairview Heights, authorities said.

Des Peres Detective Marshall Broughton said the man came to the Des Peres police station Wednesday morning and was questioned but not arrested. Broughton said the man was “very cooperative” and was released after the interview.

He said police plan to forward the case soon to the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office for consideration of charges.

Broughton wouldn’t discuss details of the interview with the suspect but said police “made it clear to him that (the hugging ploy) probably isn’t a good thing to be doing.”

Authorities were looking at possible past cases. Broughton wouldn’t discuss whether the man had a criminal history.

Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Denise Hollinshed is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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