Three teens, ages 16 and 17, face a list of felony and misdemeanor charges after allegedly briefly imprisoning and terrorizing a 19-year-old autistic and developmentally disabled woman in a car in a W-Section cul de sac in Palm Coast.
“I will never understand why some teens think this is proper behavior,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement.
The incident took place the afternoon of Feb. 17, starting in the cul-de-sac at Willard Place in Palm Coast. The alleged victim was in a black Dodge Charger with A.H. and M.Z., both 17-year-old girls, and J.F., a boy two weeks shy of 17. The Dodge was his. The victim and A.H. “typically do not get along as she calls the victim demeaning names,” the teens’ arrest reports state. J.F. and A.H. were also upset with the 19-year-old woman for supposedly damaging the car.
The woman asked J.F. to drive her home.
“You’ll see where we’re gonna take you and you’ll see what’s gonna happen to you,” J.F. and A.H. told her. M.Z. then allegedly produced a pocket knife, handed it to A.H. and said: ‘You know what to do.” Instead, A.H. allegedly produced a stun gun, handing the knife back to the other girl. She activated the stun gun. The victim thought the girl was going to strike her with the weapon and tried calling 911, only for all three of the other teens to take her phone and backpack away.
A 15-year-old boy who happened to be in his driveway, waiting for a ride from his youth pastor, saw the 19-year-old woman try to get out of the Dodge from a rear door, but the passengers inside forcibly restrained her, one of them striking the car door against her. A scuffle followed, with the victim struggling to get away, one of the car’s occupants attempting to stun her with the stun gun and another allegedly punching her and beating her up, according to the witness. The witness said “the victim did attempt to defend herself, but [was] unsuccessful as [A.H.] punched her in the head numerous times and grabbed her to prevent the victim from getting away.”
Eventually the 19-year-old woman was able to get away, with J.F. ordering the others to get in the car so they could leave, which they did–with the woman’s possessions. The backpack was later located at a neighborhood intersection, with neither the woman’s wallet nor her cell phone.
“It should be noted that the victim is diagnosed with Autism,” the arrest reports conclude, a fact the three alleged assailants were well aware of. “Further upon meeting the victim, based on my training and experience,” the deputy reporting on the incident continued, “I immediately observed that she appeared to have a developmental disorder due to her displaying significant deficits in communication and social interaction. It subsequently took an extended amount of time to interview the victim in our attempt to ascertain what transpired.”
On March 4, detectives received arrest orders from the State Attorney’s Office for the three teens, who were located and arrested within hours. “The suspects were later independently interviewed by the detectives and confessions were obtained,” according to a sheriff’s release.
M.Z. and A.H. were each charged with Robbery with a Weapon, False Imprisonment, Tampering with a Victim Preventing Communication to Law Enforcement, Aggravated Assault with Deadly Weapon and Battery. M.Z. was additionally charged with possession of Fentanyl, Marijuana and Methamphetamine, along with Obstruction, at the time of her arrest. J.F. was charged with Robbery with Weapon and Tampering with a Victim Preventing Communication to Law Enforcement. All three suspects were turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Daytona Beach.
“I hope the suspects get the help they need to get on a positive track to be kind, respectful, and productive members of our community,” the sheriff said.