Palm Coast Man Jailed After Feared Child Abduction at Bunnell Day Care Center
FlaglerLive | May 24, 2013
Last Updated: 5:53 p.m.
At 3:15 Thursday afternoon, two Bunnell city police officers were dispatched to 251 North Chapel Street regarding a “possible attempted child abduction,” according to a police report.
Subsequent details about the incident revealed that anxiety over the nature of the arrest may have been displaced: there never was an attempted abduction.
The 911 dispatcher told responding police units that a gold-brown, four-door sedan with a “taxi” sign on it had picked up one or “several children” from that address, a day care center called A Little Preschool House. In fact, the man was picking up children from a different program: A Little Preschool House was never involved.
The Bunnell Police Department and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office sent out a be-on-the-lookout alert for the vehicle matching that description, but unsuccessfully, according to the police report.
At the scene of the alleged abduction–which had not, in fact, taken place–Bunnell Police Chief Jeff Hoffman obtained a phone number for a possible suspect, George Fredericks, a 63-year-old resident of Ridley Lane in Palm Coast. Hoffman called. Fredericks agreed to come to the day care address and was there at 3:49 p.m.
A detective had meanwhile been interviewing witnesses at the scene, along with the alleged victim. The officer said that, according to the police report, “all the victims individually stated to him under oath that a man matching [Fredericks’s] description and driving a ‘taxi’ got out of his vehicle and touched the victim, shaking the victim’s right arm.”
But there was no mention of abduction.
The detective spoke to Fredericks after giving him his Miranda rights. Based on Fredericks’s statement as well as those of witnesses, “there is probable cause that [Fredericks] intentionally touched the victim against the victim’s will.”
The report does not state whether Fredericks knew the victim, nor the victim’s age or sex. (The victim’s mother later said he did not, and that her child had never seen the man before.) Fredericks was placed under arrest for battery and taken to the Flagler County jail, where he was booked in at 5:30 p.m. He bailed out that evening.
A report in the News-Journal Friday afternoon specified that Fredericks is the parent of two children at an early-learning center different from the pre-school, and that the incident began only when a 7-year-old child reportedly raised a finger in the general direction of the cab driver, according to Hoffman. Fredericks allegedly got out of his cab and shook the allegedly offending boy’s arm, leading other children to believe, falsely, that the incident was an attempted abduction.
“My son was the child that was grabbed by this man and after reading the article several people are saying it’s the daycare’s fault,” the owner of A Little Preschool House wrote in an email. “It didn’t not happen there. It happened at Bunnell Elementary School.” The parent and owner of the center wanted the facts–as related in the police report–corrected, and added: ” I also don’t want someone to think we don’t watch our children at our daycare center.”
Earlier this week Palm Coast’s R Section was under alert for an alleged sex offender who tried to pick up a child who was biking home. The sheriff’s office reported the incident as isolated.