Maxwell Robert Geroux–who goes by Max–was, by his own admission, full of it when he told Flagler County sheriff’s deputy Saturday that he’d been kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to drive to Palm Coast from Pennsylvania. Geroux, a cherubic-faced 20 year old unemployed resident of Stewartstown, a small burg near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, was at the Flagler County jail this weekend on charges of tampering or destroying evidence, lying to law enforcement and making a false report of a crime. He posted $5,000 bond and was released.
His tall tale to police began at 7:36 Saturday evening when he flagged down a deputy to report that he’d been the victim of an armed kidnapping. Geroux said he was at an ATM in a parking lot in Pennsylvania when a black man pointed a gun at him, hopped in his 2007 Grand Prix and forced him to drive to Florida. Along the way, Geroux claimed, the man threatened to kill him several times and struck him with his fist. When the pair arrived in Palm Coast, the man supposedly told Geroux to take the exit. The car ran out of gas. The man allegedly told Geroux to stay in the car. The mysterious man than left the car and ran off in the woods. At the time, the car was on Old Kings Road, north of Town Center Blvd. and south of Palm Coast Parkway.
That evening, residents of the Woodlands in Palm Coast noticed a helicopter repeatedly circling overhead. It was Air One, looking for the man who’d disappeared. K-9 units searched by ground. So did many deputies. Geroux told police that the man had taken his laptop, wallet and a folding knife, and that he was armed. By then the car was around Colbert Lane near Graham Swamp. He explained to police that after the man ran off in the woods, he (Geroux) waited a while, then himself ran down the road and flagged down a passing driver, who dropped off Geroux at a convenience store where Geroux made contact with a deputy (the Shell station on Celico Way). Geroux led the deputy back to Geroux’s car. There, Geroux wrote out a seven-page statement describing the events as they’d unfolded–much of them, as it turned out, only in his head.
By 11:10 that evening, Geroux had consented to have his car searched, and he’d provided another statement to a detective for about an hour. Deputies also discovered that Geroux had been reported missing, by his mother back in Stewartstown on Thursday. Baltimore police and Stewartstown police had been looking for Geroux since Thursday.
The facts changed considerably during that interview.
Geroux told the detective that he knew the black man. He said the man was supposed to pay him $3,000 to drive him to Daytona Beach and back “for what he believed to be a drug transaction,” according to the police report. When the car ran out of gas and the man ran off into the woods, Geroux said he ran after him, but lost him. Geroux then scattered those items into the woods that he’d previously said had been stolen, and set some of the items on fire. (That evening, there were also reports of a smell of smoke in the area along Old Kings Road south of the parkway, near Graham Swamp.) Geroux had no explanation as to why he’d set the items on fire. (The drought index is above 500 in Flagler County, which means that the fire danger is very high. Firefighters battled a couple of brushfires over the weekend, though not in the area of Old Kings Road.)
Geroux also explained that, along with the laptop, he’d scattered a marijuana pipe and a small bag of marijuana in the woods. When cops searched the woods, they discovered a burn pile, along with miscellaneous clothing, wires, a bandana and a knife.
“There was an extensive amount of manpower that was called into service as a result of this man’s reckless actions,” Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming said. “This resulted in unnecessary expenses that impacted two law enforcement agencies.”
Geroux was arrested. The manm he was traveling with was never found.