TW/CW: This story contains screenshots and quotes from messages that contain graphic language and threats of violence and kidnapping.
A harrowing experience for a local mother was made all the more terrifying last week, when she began receiving anonymous text messages from a person claiming to have her missing son — and threatening to kill him if she didn’t pay a cash ransom.
When Oregon City resident Tami Hawk’s 14-year-old son went missing last week, she was as anguished and grief-stricken as any mother would be. But when her phone began buzzing with messages from someone claiming to have abducted her son and making threats, the episode became a parent’s worst nightmare.
“I told you i have Tanner but you decided not to say anything about it or take it seriously,” one message says. “Now he is sick and wants to talk to his mom over the phone. This is fucking important. I am not releasing him until I have a ransom of 7,000$. He is sick and refused to eat anything or take anything until he talks to you. Answer me right now..”
“Do not fucking call me,” another one says. “I have texted you hours ago and you are just responding now. You are not taking this seriously. Do you think there is fucking time. he is sick. Text me back right now.”
The scammer also threatened to hurt or even kill Hawk’s son if she went to the police or failed to follow their demands.
“I see you are taking time to respond,” a later message reads. “Listen, he is sick and there’s no time to waste. PLAY BY MY RULES IF YOU FUCKING WANT HIM BACK UNHURT. He is sick. You keep taking time to respond. I am not sure you are ready for this. I see you are telling people about this already and calling the cops. Do not make me hurt him.”
Tami Hawk said she was driving near the Oregon City Fred Meyer store when the first text came in.
“Initial reaction was screaming and panic,” she said. “I don’t remember turning around and driving to the sheriff’s station, but I know I was screaming the whole way.”
When she got there, she picked up the phone outside and explained what was happening. While she waited for officers to arrive, more texts were coming in from the “kidnapper.”
“They were still texting me, telling me I was taking too long to respond and they would hurt him,” she said.
She recalls dropping to her knees in the parking lot and screaming, “Help me! Help me!” The last message she got said she would find her son’s body by a gas station that night.
“For two days, I thought my son was dead,” Hawk said.
Fortunately, Tanner was not dead, nor was he sick or abducted. He had run away from home and — his parents later learned — was staying at an apartment building in Oregon City. He has since returned home, safe and sound.
It was thanks to hundreds of posts and shares through Facebook and other social media that Tanner was eventually found — but this was also, evidently, how the case got onto the scammer’s radar.
“The flyers and posters and posts all over creation,” Tami said. “That’s why this happened.”
She said she is grateful to the community — the many people and some businesses who helped get the word out — and, especially, to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, who showed great kindness and compassion in helping her and her family navigate their nightmare.
But the terror of the episode — and the ransom scam in particular — still lingers.
“We’re just glad it’s over,” she said. “I hope I can help other families.”