Winona Boosts Search Efforts

Petaluma Argus Courier, October 12 1993

WINONA BOOSTS SEARCH EFFORTS

Actress offers $200,000 reward; encourages Polly’s schoolmates

By Anne Frantz, Argus-Courier Staff

Actress Winona Ryder’s offer of a $200,00 reward for the safe return of Polly Hannah Klaas has generated few new leads, but her support has boosted the spirits of Petalumans searching for the missing girl.

The 21-year-old actress returned to her hometown late last week after hearing of Polly’s abduction. She visited the downtown volunteer center, met Polly’s parents and spoke to students at Petaluma Junior High.

Ryder announced the reward offer Saturday. Eight extra phone lines were installed at the Petaluma Police Department in anticipation of a flood of tips, but Sgt. Mike Kerns said, “It didn’t generate the number of phone calls we expected.”

Ryder, who went to school in Petaluma, financed the entire sum of the reward, which has been deposited in a trust account at a Los Angeles bank. If more than one person offers information that leads to Polly’s return, the $200,000 will be divided. The reward will only be turned over if Polly returns home safely.

“I just felt that a person in my position, if I could help at all, I should,” Ryder said Saturday morning.

“I’m very impressed that Winona has come forward to do this,” said Police Chief Dennis DeWitt. “I think it will be very helpful.”

Police hope the reward will lead to useful information. Although they have received more than 2,000 tips since the abduction Oct. 1, they have no solid leads.

Ryder said she felt a special kinship with Polly because the 12-year-old enjoyed acting, and wanted to meet Ryder. “I have to say that that’s my greatest wish right now, to meet her and give her a hug, and see that she’s OK,” Ryder said.

Ryder’s career includes 14 motion pictures. Her latest film, “The Age of Innocence,” is playing in town.

Ryder has been flanked by police officers and FBI agents since her arrival. School officials and volunteers believe the actress does not want attention focused on her in the midst of such a tragic situation.

Dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt and boots, Ryder addressed some 500 Petaluma Junior High students who gathered in the campus quad Friday. Ryder once attended the school, as well as Petaluma High and encouraged Polly’s schoolmates to keep faith.

“It’s really kind of great to be back here…. I hate the reason that I’m back here,” she said.

Students learned just as lunch hour arrived that Ryder had come to see them.

Eighth-grader Yvette Garcia thought Ryder’s visit was “cool. I’ve seen all her movies and stuff.” The 13-year-old said Ryder’s concern proves how much everyone really cares about Polly.

“I’m here to support all of you,” Ryder told the attentive group. “It really is a tragedy but she seems really smart. Everything I’ve heard about her is ‘she’s smart,’ so maybe she can outsmart some people out there.”

Students yelled “Thanks Winona” and “We love you” and one boy even ran up and gave her a hug.

Ryder, whose film credits include “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Edward Scissorhands” said she planned to stay in Petaluma until Polly comes home.

Source: Nigel Goodall’s research archive. Used with permission.