Eva Knott 7:43 p.m., April 15
Family waited at school for Escondido boy who was taken
Police announce $1 million warrant for suspect now in Florida
The mother of a 14-year-old boy who was abducted last Monday said a family member went to pick up the boy at the end of the school day, and they knew just minutes after 3 p.m. that the child had gone missing.
Escondido Police Detective Damian Jackson was already familiar with the boy’s name, because the mother had contacted police a few days earlier when she saw sexually explicit photographs on her son’s cell phone. “She immediately took the phone and also went so far as to shut down the internet connection in her home and notified the police,” Escondido police Lieutenant Neal Griffin said at a press conference today.
When the mother first contacted police, they were given the false name of a person who had sent the photos, and a phone number that had been disconnected. After being notified that the boy was missing, it took police two hours to find the true name of suspect Tony McLeod, a 36-year-old man in Tampa, Florida. Soon investigators began “pinging” his new cell phone, and found it traveling up the coast in California, from Long Beach to Los Angeles airport.
With the cooperation of Delta Airlines, investigators discovered that Tony McLeod was a passenger on a non-stop flight to Florida, accompanied by a boy who used the name Justin McLeod and the same birthdate as the missing Escondido boy.
The suspect was immediately arrested after the plane touched down in Florida about 6 a.m. their time, on June 11, 2013. “Arrangements were made to meet the plane on the runway” according to Escondido police.
“It was the good fortune of everyone involved that Detective Jackson was the lead investigator on this case,” police Lt. Neal Griffin told journalists today. Detective Jackson is a nationally recognized expert in tracking predators through cyberspace and cell phones, the lieutenant said.
Local police said they want the public to be aware: “When a child plays an online Internet game, that almost always will include chat room activity. Child predators troll these sites looking for kids to entice and manipulate.” The suspect in this case is described as a “savvy, manipulative predator” by Escondido police.
A $1 million warrant has been issued that will be served on Tony McLeod to bring him back to California, police announced today. Local police would not estimate when they expect McLeod to arrive on the West Coast. “We have all the time in the world,” said Lt. Griffin. “He’s not going anywhere. If he gets out of custody in Florida, he is coming to California.”
The boy was reunited with his mother yesterday, police said. The mother spoke briefly to news media in Escondido today, but she did not want to be named nor photographed. She did say of the man who took her son: “I hope he gets life.”
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