It is among every parent’s worst nightmares: an assailant manages to walk into a house and abducts a child.
That, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, is almost what happened Wednesday afternoon at a house on Wellham Lane in Palm Coast when Zarut Jean Pierre-Theolin, a 26-year-old resident of nearby 60 Wellwood Lane, entered the house on Wellham uninvited, grabbed a 3-year-old child by the arm in front of his mother and tried to walk off with him, saying, “this is my baby.”
Jean Pierre-Theolin had brushed past the child’s grandfather to gain access to the living room, a sheriff’s office spokesperson said. The grandfather does not speak English and was startled by Jean Pierre-Theolin just walking in. He called out to the child’s mother, saying there was someone there. The mother came out of her bedroom. She’d never seen Jean Pierre-Theolin before. It was then that Jean Pierre-Theolin attempted to grab the child and lure him out of the house. The child’s mother, who was holding a newborn, detecting that Jean Pierre-Theolin was not acting within normal mental capacities, managed to lead Jean Pierre-Theolin out of the house, but the alleged assailant again tried to grab the boy by the arm and take him away.
The child “appeared distressed and terrorized at the time of the incident,” Jean Pierre-Theolin’s arrest report states. His mother was able to regain control of the boy in a brief struggle. The children’s mother than began running to a neighbor’s house to seek help, with Jean Pierre-Theolin running after her. Just then James Gibson, a 49-year-old Palm Coast city employee who was driving by and had noticed the commotion, yelled out of his car window that he was calling police. That got Jean Pierre-Theolin to run off.
Audio: The 911 Call
The neighbors the children’s mother was trying to reach were actually on the front side of their property and were able to give police a description of Jean Pierre-Theolin, who was in shorts, no shoes, a yellow and red-striped shirt and looked heavyset. Gibson had also provided a detailed description of the assailant. Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, deployed a K-9 unit, and asked Flagler County Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, to launch and search the neighborhood.
A deputy located Jean Pierre-Theolin at Woodhaven Drive and Woodhollow Lane. The children’s mother identified her as the woman who’d walking into her house, and Jean Pierre-Theolin was placed under arrest.
After Jean Pierre-Theolin had attempted the abduction, she walked into a house on Woodhaven Drive through the garage, startling a woman living there. The woman asked Jean Pierre-Theolin who she was. Jean Pierre-Theolin didn’t answer, stepping back out. There was some yelling, which the woman’s husband heard, prompting him to run to the front of the house, where he saw Jean Pierre-Theolin run out. He got into his car and followed her until deputies intercepted Jean Pierre-Theolin.
“She just tried to take someone’s baby and just tried to go into someone’s house,” Gibson told a dispatcher in his 911 call.
Jean Pierre-Theolin invoked her right to remain silent, so she gave police no statement nor an explanation about her actions that afternoon.
“This is a lady that appears to have serious mental issues that often results in her committing criminal acts,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Thankfully the witnesses and the victims reacted quickly and no one was hurt. This is also a prime example of why we need improved mental health services in Flagler County and throughout the State of Florida.”
Jean Pierre-Theolin was booked at the Flagler County jail without bond on charges of burglary, trespassing, loitering and attempted kidnapping of a child younger than 13. She is being held without bond. She has prior arrests in Flagler County for shoplifting and an out of county arrest warrant as well as a history of calls for service involving trespassing, criminal mischief, and mental health issues, going back at least six years.