So did hysteria really cause the child's death? I say no.
I can relate to this man's fear of being seen as an abductor, but even with our heightened sensitivity, there were options available to him other than the rejected option of immediately grabbing the child.
1) If he had a cell phone or 2-way radio, he could have called the police while staying close enough to the child to prevent tragedy.
2) If he didn't have a way of summoning help where he was, he could have stopped at the nearest occupied building (maybe the daycare center), requested help for the child then returned to a position near enough to the child so he could intervene if needed, but far enough away so he couldn't be accused of trying to abduct her.
There's a good chance that the real source of the problem is a dialogue like this:
"If this were a real problem, someone else who has more time and less to lose will help."
"Well maybe the child is lost, but her mother will find her any second now."
"I'm on the clock and getting involved will mess up my entire day."
"Besides, some fool might call me a pedophile."
I'm not trying to attack the man who didn't stop, only to look at all of the motivations we have for ignoring signals that tell us something isn't right.
Here is Alas, a blog's take on this subject.
In this Fox News story it's interesting that another example of this hysteria is the arrest of a man who grabbed a girl's arm after almost hitting her with his car. The Fox story paints the man as a lifesaving hero who's been punished with a conviction on the charge of "the unlawful restraint of a minor," but he might have been convicted for an act of road rage.
Rather than lowering the fears of potential life-savers, Fox's coverage raises the hysteria level while blaming the hysteria on those who are trying to bring very real problems into the open so we can fight the victimization of children.