Robert Elliot Goldstein, a 64-year-old Palm Coast resident, is at the Flagler County jail on felony charges stemming from a pair of disturbing assaults that took place within 72 hours, one involving a health care worker at AdventHealth Palm Coast, the other involving an 11-year-old girl Goldstein allegedly accosted and fondled at Walmart.
The incident at the hospital took place the morning of New Year’s Day. He was at the county jail when Flagler County Sheriff’s detectives determined that he had been the suspect they were looking for after the 11-year-old girl’s mother reported the incident at Walmart. Goldstein’s identity was unknown when he quickly left Walmart after the incident–the agency issued an attempt-to-identify alert–but face-recognition technology helped detectives led back to him.
Goldstein was in a restricted radiology area at AdventHealth Palm Coast, where a radiology technician was trying to get him to the emergency department so he could get help, when Goldstein allegedly turned, grabbed the technician by the waist and wrist, pushed her against the wall and said: “I need to tell you something.” Another employee witnessed the assault and called security. When a security officer asked Goldstein several times to leave, Goldstein allegedly got physical with him, too, and said: “I need heroin.” The security officer was able to take and hold Goldstein in the ambulance bay until sheriff’s deputies arrived.
Goldstein may have possibly been having a mental crisis at the time as he responded to deputies’ questions by calling the deputies “fake” and questioning them about their existence and their parents. He would not answer questions. Deputies placed him under arrest and charged him with a battery count. That would normally be a first degree misdemeanor. But because the alleged victim is a health care worker, it’s a third degree felony. Goldstein was held on $3,500 bond, which he did not post.
The Walmart incident had taken place just before 5 p.m. on Dec. 28, at Walmart in Palm Coast. The initial information from the girl’s mother was that a stranger–older, thin, white-haired–had “caressed” the girl’s “head, hair and shoulders” uninvited. The girls’s mother wanted to review security footage immediately, but Walmart personnel told her she’d have to do that through law enforcement, which she did.
The video shows the man later alleged to be Goldstein walking straight to where the girl was by the refrigerated meat and poultry section of the store, with her mother. When her mother turned to select items, the man touched the top of the girl’s head, the video showed, and moved toward her shoulders before the girl turns around and looks at him, startled, causing him to stop.
The girl told a deputy later that she was slow to react at first because she had initially thought that her mother had been touching her, the touching having resembled that of her mother. But the incident left her scared and distraught. The man, she said, winked at her and walked away. He was holding some items in his hand. Video surveillance shows him almost immediately walking out of the store. Further video footage from outside could not connect the man to a vehicle, so when the girl’s mother reported the incident his identity was unknown.
The Sheriff’s Office circulated surveillance footage and uploaded it to the AFR Engine, a facial-recognition tool used by law enforcement, without getting any results. The sheriff’s crime analyst at the Real Time Crime Center tried other facial recognition programs, again without success, as she distributed the information through a Be On the Look Out to surrounding agencies.
When on Tuesday another crime analyst again ran the image through facial recognition software, the query “gave a likely match of Robert Goldstein,” according to his arrest report. By then Goldstein was at the Flagler County jail, having been arrested on the charge stemming from the incident at AdventHealth Palm Coast.
Facial recognition software is is by no means infallible, as reports indicate. But when two detectives went to interview Goldstein at the jail about the Walmart incident, Goldstein told them he’d gone to Walmart on Dec. 28 to buy a pair of jeans, and recalled touching a girl’s hair. He said he did not do anything else to her. He couldn’t tell her age, but was aware that she was a minor.
When asked why he had touched her, he said he’d had “sexual frustration his entire life,” said he was ashamed of his actions, and that he knew it was wrong, the report states. He said he’d never done such things before. Detectives noted that he was of “clear mind” at the time of the interview, as he had been taking his medication for depression and anxiety.
“I commend the child’s parent for reporting the initial incident at Walmart and I commend our team for recognizing him so we could get him off the streets before he could attack a young child or another female,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release. “This is likely not his first offense so we’re asking anyone in the community to contact us with information on any prior interactions with him. You can call 386-313-4911 or email [email protected].”
Goldstein was charged with the additional count of child abuse without great bodily harm, a third-degree felony, and a misdemeanor battery count.