Update: The charge of felony child abuse against Luis Guillermo Betancourt-Rodriguez was dropped in August 2014 as part of a plea deal in which Betancourt-Rodriguez was found guilty of felony battery in the June 7, 2017 incident also referred to in the article below. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and adjudication was withheld, but Betancourt-Rodriguez violated probation in March 2015 and probation was extended a year. He violated probation again, and in August 2017 was sentenced to eight months at the county jail, with four months’ credit for time served. He was arrested on a drug charge on July 26, 2018.
Luis Guillermo Betancourt-Rodriguez is a 25-year-old resident of 20 Berkshire Lane in Palm Coast. Wednesday morning (Sept. 18), he was pulled over on a traffic stop on Belle Terre Parkway near Barrister Lane. One of his brake lights was out, and he had an expired tag.
An hour later, Betancourt-Rodriguez was at the Flagler County jail, booked on a charge of aggravated battery and another charge of aggravated child abuse.
As it turns out, Betancourt-Rodriguez had two warrants out for his arrest, signed by Circuit Judge J. David Walsh in late August. The arresting Flagler County deputy uncovered the warrants while running a background check on Betancourt-Rodriguez at the traffic stop, and discovering as well that Betancourt-Rodriguez had a suspended and cancelled driver’s license.
The incidents that led to the warrants go back to April and June.
On April 4, a 4-year-old boy caught the attention of his teacher at a Flagler County day care center: the boy was bruised on the left side of his face. The teacher asked the boy about the bruises. The boy said his cousin (another child) had hit him with a toy. But then the story changed, and the boy told the teacher that his mother’s boyfriend—Betancourt-Rodriguez—had allegedly struck him with a belt. The boy told the teacher that Rodriguez struck him because he went into a room that he wasn’t supposed to go into.
Teachers, like all educators, are required to report any suspected child abuse to authorities immediately. Florida earlier this year launched a “Don’t Miss the Signs” campaign in conjunction with stricter reporting requirements in case of suspected child abuse.
The next day, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy G. Fuentes made contact with Betancourt-Rodriguez to ask him about the bruising. Betancourt-Rodriguez said he didn’t know how it might have happened. At midnight the night before, he had tucked in the boy, then at 2 a.m. the boy got in bed with him and his mother, according to a police report. When Betancourt-Rodriguez woke up, he told police that he saw some bruising on the boy’s left ear and on his forehead, and that the bruising got worse through the day.
Betancourt-Rodriguez told police that he did not hit the boy. Fuentes photographed the boy’s injuries. later that day, a forensic interviewer from the child protection team conducted an interview with the young boy and turned over the findings to the investigating deputy. The boy’s disclosures were inconsistent, according to the police report, but the investigation nevertheless concluded that the boy had been a victim of “physical abuse perpetrated against him by Luis Betancourt.”
A detective made several attempts to get in contact with Betancourt-Rodriguez, but the suspect informed the detective that he was a painter, that he was very busy. “A reasonable amount of time was given with no effort made by L. Betancourt to meet this detective to discuss the incident,” the arrest report states. “The impression documented on the juvenile victim’s face is consistent with a belt buckle. Due to the findings, L. Betancourt will be charged with child abuse,” the police report states.
Rodriguez-Betancourt’s address was well known. It is not clear why a warrant was not issued until Aug. 28, even though child services and a detective had found him suspected of child abuse in April—with a child still living in his care, or why his arrest did not take place until a coincidental traffic stop, particularly since a second alleged violent incident involving Betancourt-Rodriguez had taken place in the interim.
On June 7, a Friday, Rodriguez was at a Woodpecker Lane address in Palm Coast, drinking beer with friends and talking about wrestling when, while sitting at a picnic bench outside, he punched a victim with a closed fist, according to a police report, striking the victim in the left eye.
A witness told police that there had been no argument or disagreement, that the act was done unexpectedly. The victim subsequently had some $7,000 in medical care and was scheduled for surgery four days after the alleged attack. Without the surgery, he told police, he could have lost vision in his eye, according to doctors. The incident resulted in an aggravated battery charge against Rodriguez.
Local police agencies frequently deploy heavy and costly resources, in manpower and money, to serve warrants on non-violent alleged drug offenders, as the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office did in conjunction with other police agencies last week in a broad and much-publicized sweep of synthetic pot traffickers. In domestic violence cases, suspects are routinely arrested on the spot.
Aside from the reported attempts by a detective to get in contact with Betancourt-Rodriguez in April, it appears that no further attempts had been made to serve the warrants until his arrest following the traffic stop.
Asked about the time-line from the alleged incidents to Betancourt-Rodriguez’s actual arrest, Flagler County Sheriff Cdr. Bob Weber, the office’s chief spokesman, explained in an email, referring to the Florida Department of Children and Families: “I would think that our investigators had to wait for the DCF report prior to signing those charges to insure that [probable cause] existed.” The charges were submitted to the State Attorney’s Office and a Capias was issued on August 28th. As to the child and the subject being in the same home, DCF is the agency that makes a decision as to whether a child should remain in the home or placed somewhere else.”
Weber added: “As far as warrant service, I can assure you that our people actively look for people on a daily basis who reside in the county and have warrants issued for their arrest. The fact that it may have taken several days after the warrants were issued for us to locate him on a traffic stop does not mean that we did not try to execute the warrants. I checked Betancourt-Rodriguez address history and see that when he was arrested for the Child Abuse charge he listed a residence on Birchshire Lane and when he was arrested on the Aggravated Battery charge he listed a home address on Red Oak Place while the incident occurred on Woodpecker Lane. Both capias’s listed his home address of Bronson Lane and when he was booked into the inmate facility he provided and address on Berkshire Lane. It seems as though Mr. Betancourt-Rodriguez gets around quite a bit.”
Rodriguez-Betancourt has had legal issues previously. In June 2010 he pleaded guilty to domestic battery and was sentenced to a year’s probation, which he violated, leading to his jailing again. In June 2011, he was charged with drunk driving, later lowered to reckless driving, to which he pleaded guilty.
On the latest charges—-aggravated battery and aggravated child abuse–Betancourt-Rodriguez posted $3,500 bond and was released.
About 90 minutes after this story posted, a woman calling from Luis Rodriguez’s phone contacted FlaglerLive, demanding to know who had granted “permission” to report this information. “When my lawyer calls your ass, you’d better put that shit down as newsworthy,” the unidentified woman said, then immediately hung up. In his previous domestic battery case, a public defender was assigned as Betancourt-Rodriguez’s attorney.