On Friday afternoon, Tracy Nigh and her eight-year-old daughter were waiting inside their local Walmart in Port Orange, Florida for her eldest daughter to come out of school.
Instead of picking her 15 year-old up from school, the mother of two said she would normally wait at the local department store with other parents. “She and many other students from the high school walk down the street from the school to get picked up,” Tracy explained in an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “So we were inside. It’s very hot outdoors here still.”
The two sat on the store bench for about 10 minutes before an elderly man approached them. The clean-shaven, gray-haired man was pushing a shopping cart with bags inside, which made Tracy believe he had just finishing up at Walmart.
Instead, the man asked the two if he could “sit down for a minute” and everyone on the bench moved “all the way over” to accommodate what seemed like “an old man that needed to sit,” Tracy recalled.
Instinctively keeping an arm around her daughter—“Just being a mom,” Tracy acknowledges—the man started to make small talk, telling them both he was from Austria and that he and his “wife could never ‘make’ children.”
The conversation suddenly turned uncomfortable, Nigh said, when the man began asking personal questions and probing about the whereabouts of the girl’s father.
When Nigh, a stage technician and housekeeper, responded that her husband was at work, the man she described as overweight “laughed pretty loudly and obnoxiously.”
She added: “He touched my daughter on the arm and made a comment about her soft skin.”
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he asked the unthinkable: “How much?”
“He then looked at me and said ‘I’ll give you 100K, I asked for what, he then looked right at my daughter and back at me and said, ‘or her,’” the mother recounted.
When she declined the offer, the Austrian man offered an additional $50,000. And after her second decline, the old man dressed in “normal-looking clothes” eventually offered $200,000 to buy her daughter. Stunned by how the stranger’s proposition, Tracy immediately got “very nervous and began to shake.”
“I said very clearly that ‘we have to go!’ I just wanted to get her away as soon as possible,” the mother of two said.
As she got up to leave, the man allegedly grabbed the child, pulled her in, and kissed the inside of her wrist.
“He left saliva on her arm,” Nigh claimed. “My daughter was terrified and shaking.”
Tracy recalled cleaning off her daughter in an aisle within the store.. And after a text to her husband about the incident, she filed a police report.
“I broke down in tears when [my daughter] finally saw her big sister come in the store,” Nigh said. “We were already with the police and security at that time. We were all shaken up, very shocked and scared.”
Hours later, 81-year-old Hellmuth Kolb was arrested, sent to Volusia County Jail, and charged with the battery and false imprisonment of a minor under the age of 13.
Police said the creepy exchange was caught on a store camera, and that Kolb was easily identified through his credit-card transaction and social-media accounts.
“He violated my wife and child and it’s kept me up night after night,” Brandon Nigh told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Watching Tracy and my daughter going through so many emotions is heartbreaking to me.” The incident has made the Nigh family fearful of the big-box retailer, adamantly saying they “have not gone back in and never will again.”
For Kolb, meanwhile, his attempted purchase appears to be a repeated offense.
Another women had approached the Walmart store’s security team a month earlier to report a similar incident with a perpetrator fitting Kolb's description, police confirmed to The Daily Beast.
“He needs to be held accountable for what he’s done to my family and the other families that have come forward,” Brandon said.
Authorities confirmed to The Daily Beast they are now investigating similar instances where Kolb may have been involved, though he has no prior convictions.
“Shook, rocked and shocked to the core,” Tracy wrote on Facebook following the incident. “Be careful out there women and men with your daughters, wives and the all the women in your life, please.”
On Saturday, the judge ordered Kolb, a U.S. resident originally from Austria, not to have any contact with the girl or her mother.
Despite the evidence, however, Kolb is no longer being held in jail and is at home, having paid his bond ahead of his trial—something the first grader is “very upset about.”
“She’s having trouble sleeping,” her mother said of her daughter, who had just turned eight one week prior to the incident.
Her husband agreed, adding: “I am past the level of anger, it’s pure hate towards this scumbag and I hope they make him pay!”
Kolb did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. It is unclear if he has retained a lawyer.