The pamphlets, many of them scrunched up and packaged in plastic Easter eggs with fish crackers and other enigmatic objects, began appearing in people’s boxes around Palm Coast, Flagler Beach and the Hammock last Sunday. And kept appearing. The telltale sign was the raised flag on mailboxes.
On Wednesday, the mystery was apparently solved when 42-year-old Abril Cestoni, a resident of 1 Princess Place in Palm Coast and an employee at Publix in the Hammock, was pulled over as she drove with a box-full of the pamphlet, and admitted to deputies she was the distributor. Her reason: she was seeking to inform the public about problems with the local clergy, which she said employs homosexuals and doesn’t take care of the elderly.
Because of the coronavirus public health emergency, the sheriff’s office had been concerned that the person distributing the pamphlets, wrapped in other materials, may have been intentionally spreading Covid-19. Cestoni said she did not have symptoms of the disease and was not attempting to spread it. (Up to a quarter of carriers of the virus do not show symptoms, according to recent research.)
Rick de Yampert, FlaglerLive’s culture writer, found one of the packages in his mailbox in Seminole Woods this morning. “The flyer was folded in half with its pornographic photos and text visible, and a small clear plastic bag was stapled to the flyer,” he said. “The plastic bag included a folded paper towel, a Q-tip, and ripped pages from a small Bible. One of the pages is a “red-letter” edition, in which the direct quotes of Jesus are in red letters – although that page has no indication of what book of the Bible it is from. Smaller ripped pages included a corner from Hebrews 11:23 and Acts 5:4.” The small yet clearly discernible photos include five hard-core depictions of heterosexual and gay sex, with two small photos that seem to be of nuns. In the middle of the flyer is a photo of a middle-aged Caucasian man in the center of what may be a condom. (The original flyer is here. Caution: explicit.)
Deputies got a break in the case Wednesday night when a resident of Hernandez Avenue in the Hammock reported seeing a grey vehicle parked in front of her mailbox, then drive off toward 16th Road. When the resident retrieved the material left in the mailbox, it was an orange Easter egg with the same sort of materials found in other mailboxes, including a goldfish cracker, a strawberry drink mix, a piece of toilet paper, and two explicit images.
By April 4, sheriff’s deputies had determined that the likely vehicle the suspect was driving was a Honda Civic from around 2004 or 2005. They subsequently concluded that the vehicle would be in the R Section. (The sheriff’s office has a network of license-plate readers and is linked in to Palm Coast’s traffic signals, which also have live video capabilities.) They located the Honda traveling on Belle Terre Parkway, and pulled it over at Whiteview Parkway.
There they were, in plain view: pamphlets identical to those found in mailboxes on Hernandez Avenue, stacked in a cardboard box. Cestoni was asked to step out and was read her Miranda warning.
According to Cestoni’s arrest report, she confessed to distributing the pamphlets for several days. She told deputies “she was aware the pamphlets contained obscene pornographic images, because she created the pamphlet on a power point program,” but said she “included the images because homosexuals are allowed to teach in the church.” She said she was conducting research on local clergy and people deserved to know the truth, and “made several incoherent statements and rants about the church and local clergy.”
A deputy specifically asked her about demands made in her pamphlets–demands that local clergy pay back their salaries to the public–and whether she intended to harm anyone if her demands were not met. She said she did not, and that she was “a church” herself, and has a business license. She does not. Six years ago she attempted to start a business called Cestoni’s Pizzeria, but it went nowhere. She also faces child-support delinquency charges.The text in Cestoni’s pamphlets echoed her incoherence with deputies. A headline in one of her pamphlets reads: “Flagler County religious leaders’ state of cognitivism and their psychosis’ ” followed by huge letters that read “Healing with marijuana.” The text, reproduced here exactly as it appeared in the pamphlets, continues: “Weed’s surprising impact on dementia and other health issues. With just a click in payment of 29% of your take-home check as church donation, you have assisted your idolized Pastor and their staff members to pay for their unlegalized medication… For themselves and partners… While you and your family are running out of toilet paper.
“Religious leaders and their respective students: ‘I shall not adore toilet paper as Jesus with a St. Mary and St. Joseph on a Yehowah steak . . .’” The ellipses are in the original text. “A net for a realty… A wood for a net … A sham for a man of he… A Christian son for the creator… Perhaps religious leaders you should stop dancing with wolves and become God’s post man to complete the task undertaken.” And so on.
She faces 11 counts of distributing obscene materials, a count of driving on a suspended license and a count of violating health-safety measures during a declared disaster.
“Our team did a great job in tracking this deranged offender down and taking her into custody,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release issued this morning. “Thankfully she did not appear to be sick with COVID-19 symptoms, but she certainly needs some help. This again proves that ‘see something, say something’ works and we thank the community for being part of our guardianship policing philosophy.”